words // Brandon Richard
After two seasons of uncertainty and indecisiveness, the “Dwightmare” is finally over. In a tweet sent out Friday night, Dwight Howard announced that he will resume his playing career with the Houston Rockets next season.
The surprising decision to leave the Los Angeles Lakers comes after a disappointing season in which the Lakers barely found a way into the playoffs and were swept in the first round by the eventual Western Conference Champion San Antonio Spurs. Despite being hampered by back and shoulder injuries all season, Howard led the league in rebounding for the fifth time and started for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game.
According to reports, Howard will sign a 4-year deal worth approximately $88 million dollars and an opt-out clause in the fourth season. Contracts cannot officially be signed until July 10.
Howard’s decision has often been compared to LeBron James’ decision in 2010, when the now four-time MVP announced he’d be taking his talents to South Beach. While there may be some similarities, Howard’s divorce from the Orlando Magic (and now the Los Angeles Lakers) has been a bit more “messy.” In March of 2012, Howard waived his Early Termination Option (ETO) to remain with the Orlando Magic after demanding a trade to the New Jersey Nets earlier in the season. Things took a turn for the worse in April when coach Stan Van Gundy awkwardly revealed that Howard had asked for him to be replaced. About a week later, Howard was diagnosed with a herniated disk, ending his season and Magic career.
When the firing of Van Gundy and a brand new General Manager for the Magic did little to repair the relationship with Howard, he was traded to the Lakers in a 4-team blockbuster last August. The change of scenery didn’t do much for Howard’s happiness — he reportedly clashed with Kobe Bryant all season long and was never healthy enough to perform at his usual level. Howard was harshly criticized by national media for getting himself ejected in his final game as a Laker.
With the signing, the upstart Houston Rockets immediately put themselves in a position to contend for an NBA Championship. Led by All-Star guard James Harden, the Rockets dropped a closely contested first round playoff series against the Oklahoma City back in May. Harden and forward Chandler Parsons were instrumental in recruiting Howard to Houston, keeping in close communication with him for several months. The Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors were also in pursuit of Howard this summer.
What was all the fuss about? Howard is a 7-time NBA All-Star and 3-time Defensive Player of the Year. He also has five rebounding titles, led the league in shot blocking twice and made a trip to the NBA Finals with the Magic in 2009.
So, after landing the biggest free agent of the summer, do you think the Houston Rockets now have enough to win the West and play for an NBA Championship next June? Let us know what you think about the Dwight Howard pickup below.