Howard heading to Rockets

Updated: 2013-07-07 08:31

By Associated Press(China Daily)

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 Howard heading to Rockets

Former Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard dunks during the first half of their NBA game against the Utah Jazz in Los Angeles on Jan 25. Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press

Dwight Howard is joining the Houston Rockets, leaving the Los Angeles Lakers after one disappointing season to chase championships with fellow All-Star James Harden.

"I've decided to become a member of the Houston Rockets. I feel (it's) the best place for me and I am excited about joining the Rockets and I'm looking forward to a great season," Howard wrote on Twitter on Friday night.

Howard, the NBA's most dominant and indecisive big man who had never been fully comfortable playing under Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni, joins a Rockets team that could become an immediate contender in the Western Conference.

The Lakers confirmed earlier Friday that Howard would be leaving. Dallas, Golden State and Atlanta were the other teams interested in Howard.

"Naturally we're disappointed," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. "However, we will now move forward in a different direction with the future of the franchise and, as always, will do our best to build the best team possible."

The Rockets had brought Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon with them when they made their pitch to Howard on Monday. And now Howard will follow the likes of Olajuwon and Yao Ming in Houston's middle.

The deal can't become official until Wednesday, after next season's salary cap has been set. The Rockets can give him a four-year deal worth about $88 million, a year less and far below the $118 million the Lakers could have offered.

The Lakers acquired Howard last August from Orlando as part of a four-way trade. He averaged 17.1 points and 12.4 rebounds in 76 games, far from his usual dominant play in eight seasons with the Magic as he worked his way back into shape following back surgery.

He wasn't a natural fit in D'Antoni's offense and had what appeared to be a strained relationship with Kobe Bryant.

Bryant apparently won't miss him. Though he took part in the Lakers' meeting with Howard on Tuesday, the five-time champion posted a photo on Instagram shortly after Howard's decision of himself and Pau Gasol, the Lakers' remaining big man.

The Mavericks and Warriors, meanwhile, made other big moves as soon as it was clear they were out of the running for Howard.

Dallas came to an agreement with Spanish star Jose Calderon on a four-year, $28 million contract, a person with knowledge of the deal told Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because free agent contracts can't be discussed publicly before Wednesday, when they can first be signed.

Calderon spent his first seven years with Toronto before the Raptors traded him to Detroit in January. The Spaniard has career averages of 10.1 points and 7.2 assists per game.

Calderon's best season was 2008-09 when he averaged highs of 12.8 points and 8.9 assists. But that was a year after consecutive seasons of first-round playoff exits, when Calderon was primarily a backup.

The Warriors reached an agreement with swingman Andre Iguodala on a $48 million, four-year deal, according to two people with knowledge of the situation, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

Also Friday, the Philadelphia 76ers acquired the rights to Rockets forward Royce White.

White was a first-round pick in the 2012 draft and spent last season on the Rockets' inactive list as he worked on a deal with the team to balance his anxiety disorder.

(China Daily 07/07/2013 page7)