Saturday, July 6, 2013

Dwight Howard leaves Lakers for Rockets

The list in Dwight Howard's Bel-Air bedroom won out after all, that totem pole of tasks that began with the one that inspired him to join the Houston Rockets.

"1. Shall come to pass that the Lakers will be the 2012-13 champs," the paper that was taped on his mirror read.

All the noise about his warped priorities, all those signs that he cared more about his business than his basketball, and Howard got it right in the end by chasing the one dream so many wondered if he cared about anymore: a championship. This was a "Dwightmare" at almost every turn, from the Orlando chapter gone wrong to drama in Laker Land that started at the outset and seemed to never stop.

Even with the scorched earth he left behind in Los Angeles, where the Lakers are so unaccustomed to being left at the altar when it comes to the game's greats, Howard put only one thing first: winning. He wanted to win and win now. And that meant joining James Harden & Co. to give it a go.

That option wasn't quite so clear anywhere else, not with the aging Dirk Nowitzki and an unclear roster in Dallas, the overbearing Kobe Bryant and the overhyped roster with the Lakers, the wide open roster landscape in Atlanta or the intriguing-but-complicated situation in Golden State. And so Howard joined the Rockets, heading for Houston with the hopes of restarting his mission after the Lakers' spectacularly awful 2012-13 campaign in which they were swept by San Antonio first the first round.

Dwight Howard and Dwayne Wade

There was none of his now-infamous waffling here, either. Howard made his decision, first reported by USA TODAY Sports, before boarding a plane in Colorado headed back to Los Angeles, where he intended all along to inform the Lakers and announce his destination via Twitter.

He would eventually do just that, changing the jersey on his Twitter avatar to Rockets garb and sharing his enthusiastic thoughts not long after the Lakers general manager announced Howard would not return.

Reactions were swift on social media, and former teammates Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol quickly unfollowed him on Twitter.

But there should be no backlash here, not with the indisputable reality that he's accepting $30 million less in order to chase a championship in a market that does less for his personal brand. Howard picked the right to-do list that hung on his mirror, ignoring - at least for now - the one that hung near the list of on-court goals and reads "Be an icon. Be iconic."

He may or may not reach that status with the Rockets, where Yao Ming certainly proved that global acclaim is possible outside New York, Chicago or LA. Howard may or may not win a title, what with the Miami Heat stubbornly standing their ground and so much parity to go around.

But he will be a happier, healthier version of himself than the one we saw in that disastrous trial run in Hollywood. Onward and upward it is for Howard, then. His road to redemption has officially begun.

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