Dwight Howard, the most coveted player in the NBA’s free agent class this year, will depart the Los Angeles Lakers for the Houston Rockets, the former Defensive Player of the Year said on Friday.
“I’ve decided to become a member of the Houston Rockets. I feel its [sic] 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 said via Twitter on Friday night, after US media reported his impending move.
The seven-time All-Star posted a picture of himself wearing a red Rockets jersey.
USA Today reported Howard’s deal is worth US$88 million over four years.
Prior to taking to social media, Howard informed the Lakers that he would not return to the club.
“We have been informed of Dwight’s decision to not return to the Lakers. 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, one our great Lakers fans will be proud to support.”
“To Dwight, we thank him for his time and consideration, and for his efforts with us last season. We wish him the best of luck on the remainder of his NBA career,” Kupchak said.
“Welcome to Houston Dwight Howard!!!” tweeted Rockets general manager Daryl Morey — who earlier in the day had tried to tamp down expectations by saying on Twitter that no deal was in place.
With Howard confirming his plans, Morey was less circumspect.
“This team is going to be special,” he tweeted.
The Lakers acquired Howard from the Orlando Magic in a 12-player, four-team deal in August last year.
Howard was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year three times (2009-2011) with Orlando and had helped the club reach the 2009 NBA finals, where they lost to the Lakers.
He had become disenchanted with the Magic and asked to be traded.
He arrived in Los Angeles having spent the off-season recovering from back surgery, and was further slowed by a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
In Houston, Howard will team up with All-Star guard James Harden, along with guard Jeremy Lin and forwards Chandler Parson and Omer Asik.
The Rockets were eliminated in the first round of the this year’s NBA playoffs in six games by the top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder.