Rockets Win The Dwight Howard Sweepstakes
When the Houston Rockets have been among the NBA’s elite teams, it has always been because they had an elite center in the middle as the team’s driving force. Moses Malone, Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon all helped put Houston on the map and into the NBA Finals, and Yao Ming seemed destined to do so before injuries prematurely ended his career.
The primary story revolving around Dwight Howard for the past three seasons has not been his various exploits on the NBA hardwood, but rather his decisions about where to sign next. The Magic traded him rather than ride the ongoing roller coaster, the Los Angeles Lakers did their best to spend Howard into the Finals, but now it’s Houston’s turn to try and turn the league’s best big man into an NBA champion.
The Lakers, the Dallas Mavericks, the Golden State Warriors and the Atlanta Hawks all made strong pushes to try and convince Howard to choose their teams, but in the end the many benefits offered by Houston held sway on one of the most indecisive free agents in history.
The financial ramifications have now been well-documented, though I first wrote about Houston’s advantages over Los Angeles back on May 8th. Houston’s comparatively low cost of living and Texas’ lack of state income tax make Houston a smart financial choice for Howard, but his decision was based on a great deal more than that. Howard wanted to know that he would be the primary focus of the offense and that his new team had a legit chance of contending, and by all indications the Rockets are poised to be one of the teams to beat in the NBA next season. James Harden emerged as one of the league’s top guards last season, Chandler Parsons is one of the most underrated players in the game, and rumors are rampant that Houston will work out a sign-and-trade that could yield another star in Houston . . .possibly Atlanta’s Josh Smith, a boyhood friend of Howard’s.
For now, we know where Dwight will spend his foreseeable future, and Houston promises to give him a chance to come into his own as one of the NBA’s all-time greats. If Howard can follow in the footsteps of players like Malone, Sampson, and particularly two-time NBA champion Olajuwon, Houston could turn out to be the perfect place for him to define his legacy.