Dwight Howard chooses Houston Rockets
The Rockets are the winners of the Dwight Howard derby.
Howard, 27, has selected Houston over the Lakers, Warriors and other destinations.
"I've decided to become a member of the Houston Rockets," Howard tweeted. "I feel its the best place for me and I am excited about joining the Rockets and I'm looking forward to a great season. I want to thank the fans in Los Angeles and wish them the best."
Howard met with Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak Friday night to deliver the news. "We have been informed of Dwight's decision to not return to the Lakers," Kupchak said in a prepared statement. "Naturally we're disappointed."
Howard, a nine-year pro, spent the 2012-13 season with the Lakers after being acquired from Orlando. Despite myriad injuries, Howard averaged 17.1 points, a league-leading 12.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks and shot 57.8 percent from the field. The Lakers finished the season 45-37, falling to the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs.
Howard, a seven-time All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year, spent the first week of free agency meeting with five teams: the Lakers, Rockets, Mavericks, Hawks and Warriors.
During their meeting, the Lakers reportedly emphasized that they could teach him how to win championships. "You need to learn how it's done first, and I can teach you here," Kobe Bryant told Howard during the Lakers' presentation, Yahoo! Sports reported. The pitch was a "complete turnoff" to Howard, according to ESPN.
The Rockets' pitch, which came shortly after free agency opened at 12:01 a.m. ET Monday, was star-studded. Former Houston greats Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Yao Ming all spoke to Howard during the meeting, attempting to sell him on the history and championship potential of the Rockets. Howard reportedly asked about the Rockets' ability to add a third superstar to go with him and James Harden, and Houston was reportedly exploring ways to add both Howard and free-agent forward Josh Smith. Houston went 45-37 last season and lost to the Thunder in the first round of the playoffs. SI.com's Rob Mahoney noted earlier this week that the Rockets were the best basketball fit among the five teams pursuing Howard.