Dwight Howard to join Rockets

HOUSTON — Free agent center Dwight Howard has decided to join the Houston Rockets.

The seven-time All-Star posted a picture of himself wearing a red Rockets jersey, ending a nearly 20-month saga regarding the future of the dominant big man.

Howard’s deal is worth $88 million over four years, according to USA Today. Had Howard decided to remain with Los Angeles, the Lakers could have offered him a five-year deal worth up to $118 million.

“I’ve decided to become a member of the Houston Rockets. 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 said via Twitter Friday night.

Howard informed the Lakers prior to his message on Friday that he would not return to the team.

“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.”

Howard, the most coveted free agent of the 2013 offseason, was traded to the Lakers from the Orlando Magic following several trade requests last summer in a four-team deal.

His decision apparently came down to the Lakers or Rockets, but the Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks were also involved in the recruiting process.

“Everybody welcome my boy DwightHoward to the HoustonRockets!!,” Rockets forward Chandler Parsons tweeted Friday night.

Howard underwent back surgery last April and spent much of the offseason rehabbing. Howard is currently suffering from a torn labrum in his right shoulder, but that injury will not require surgery to repair.

The 27-year-old averaged 17.1 points and a league-leading 12.4 rebounds per game.

Howard was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year three times (2009-2011) and led the Magic to the NBA Finals in 2009, where they were ousted by the Lakers in five games.

In Houston, Howard will team up with All-Star guard James Harden, along with guard Jeremy Lin and forwards Chandler Parson and Omer Asik. Asik, however, reportedly has said he has no interest in being Howard’s backup.

The Rockets were eliminated in the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs in six games by the top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder.

Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC

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