Friday, July 5, 2013

It's Official Dwight Howard Is Headed To The Houston Rockets

USA TODAY: After 20 months of twists and turns in the Dwight Howard saga a person with knowledge of his decision told USA TODAY Sports he will join the Houston Rockets.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because his decision had not yet been announced.

After being traded from the Orlando Magic to the Los Angeles Lakers in a four-team deal a year ago, Howard entered the summer unsure of what he might do because of the awful Lakers season that had unfolded.

His partnership with Kobe Bryant never went as planned, nor did his recovery from back surgery in April of 2012 that hindered his play for most of the season.

The five team race between the Rockets, Lakers, Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks included lengthy meetings with each team in Los Angeles earlier in the week that would not only determine his final destination but slow a free agency period that should now speed up with his decision known.

The practice of superstars pushing their way to greener pastures is hardly a unique concept in today's NBA, but Howard's was in a class all its own because of the seemingly-endless twists and turns and his infamous indecisiveness.

With word having long-since spread about his growing unhappiness in Orlando during the lockout, his first public request came during training camp in Dec. 2011.

He had taken the Magic to new heights, as they went from 21 wins the season before he was taken first overall out of Southwest Christian Academy in 2004 to 36 wins in his rookie season. Then, starting in 2006, they went on a run of six straight playoff appearances that included the NBA Finals loss to the Lakers in 2009 and a Conference Finals loss to the Boston Celtics in 2010.

He won three Defensive Player of the Year awards, was known as the best center in the game, and had a fun-loving image that would be battered throughout the year to come.

But Howard wanted more, to play on the sort of stage that would help him become an icon of the sporting world. That was the word he so often came back to with those closest to him, and the one he had written on a sheet of paper that was taped to the bedroom mirror of his Bel-Air home as a reminder – "Icon."

So his list of preferred destinations would soon be widely known, with the then-soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets a clear favorite and the Lakers and Dallas Mavericks seen as distant backup options. There were months of trade talk updates both real and contrived, followed by the surreal All-Star weekend in Orlando in which Howard was the host who had one foot out the door. It was the perfect storm of media madness, Howard facing relentless questioning about his future while trying to explain the difference between loving a town and loving a team.

As the March 2012 trade deadline neared, the Nets were closing in on a deal and it looked as if his vision of pairing with point guard Deron Williams in Brooklyn would become reality. Until, of course, Howard would make the stunning and puzzling decision that complicated it all.

By deciding to opt in with the Magic for last season – a choice that he credited to loyalty but that also allowed him to keep open the possibility of a five-year maximum contract as opposed to four – the 'Dwightmare' was painfully prolonged.

It would all unravel a month later with the most memorable moment of them all, when then-Magic coach Stan Van Gundy candidly told the local media that Howard wanted him fired and, seconds later, felt the affectionate embrace of Howard as he walked up unknowingly and draped his right arm around his coach.

A month later, Van Gundy and then-general manager Otis Smith would be ousted. Three months later, and after the Nets' possibility would come and go countless times, Howard was dealt to the Lakers in the four-team trade that seemed to answer the questions about his future.

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