UPDATE (7/5/13): USA Today reports Dwight Howard agrees to sign with the Houston Rockets.
Today the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers will make their pitch to Dwight Howard. If the seven time NBA All Star called me up and asked for advice (He won’t, but should), I’d tell him the best place for him to revive his image and advance his career are in Houston, Texas.
Update: Howard met with the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks on Monday.
It’s clear Dwight Howard doesn’t want to play for Mike D’antoni and with Kobe Bryant. I don’t see the Lakers brass firing D’Antoni and bringing in a new coach when Mike Brown is still on the payroll, even though he’s coaching the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Even though he will start the season on the injured list, Black Mamba isn’t going anywhere for at least three years, that’s more than half the length of the contract Dwight would be signing (5 years/$118 Million). Add to that, Dwight doesn’t seem to be able to handle the pressure of being the man for Southern California’s number one draw. For what it is worth, Orlando was always the best place for Howard’s personality and game (Disclaimer: I’m a die hard Orlando Magic fan, but I will be objective.). The bright lights of Tinseltown or even his other previously desired destination in Brooklyn is too much for him. Being a big fish in a small pond is what he needs. He’s often been compared to Shaquille O’Neal; yes he has the fun goofy persona as Shaq, yes he is the most dominant big man in the league like Shaq and appears to be indirectly or directly – depending on who you ask – following in Shaq’s size 22 shoes, but he doesn’t have that “it” Shaq has that allowed him to follow in the footsteps of other Laker greats in L.A. I think this past season in So Cal has proven that to Dwight and he now knows the grass isn’t greener in the bigger markets. That’s why Houston is the best place for him.
First let’s dive into the money issue. The Lakers can offer him the most money of any suitor. But let’s look at this closely. Everyone points to the $30 million dollars he stands to lose if he turns down the Lakers, $118 million versus $88 million from anyone else. It’s misleading. The only way Dwight loses the $30 million is if he gets injured and never is able to play again to sign another contract. Howard is 27 years old. If he signs with the Rockets for four years, he can sign an extension after the third year at 30 years old, thus potentially earning the $30 million he left on the preverbal table from Los Angeles. Because of his age, Dwight could potentially sign two more big contracts after this one. He won’t be hurting financially by passing on the Lakers deal. Also there are no state income taxes in Texas, just like in Florida. I’m not a math wiz, especially when it comes to taxes, but if you factor the California taxes plus cost of living, I don’t think Dwight will miss much cash flow.
Second James Harden. Dwight has never played with another perennial all-star. Harden in one season with the Rockets proved he’s that and could possible be more. This is more appealing then playing alongside aging superstars in Kobe Bryant – who will be 35 when he returns from a torn Achilles injury – and Dirk Nowitzki (35) of the Dallas Mavericks, another suitor for Howard.
Third cap flexibility. If the Rockets sign Howard and trade Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik as has been rumored, it will free up cap space to sign another big name free agent in the summer of 2014 and build their own younger Big three to grow and compete in an aging Western Conference.
The Houston Rockets with Dwight Howard could be similar to his 2009 Eastern Conference Champion Orlando Magic team, only with a top flight superstar sidekick he didn’t have to help carry to load in the Magic Kingdom. His two potential key sidekicks in James Harden and Chandler Parsons at ages 23 and 24 haven’t hit the prime of their career yet. This gives the Rockets room and time to grow into a powerhouse, effectively opening the championship window for close to a decade.