Dwight Howard has decided.
According to USA Today, and confirmed by two sources to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, Howard will sign with the Houston Rockets. That came after meetings with the Warriors, Lakers, Rockets, Mavericks and Hawks, Howard retreated to Colorado on Tuesday to weigh his choices and make a decision.
However, Howard traveled to Los Angeles late Friday evening to inform the Lakers of his decision and a report stated Howard was "50-50" between the Lakers and Rockets. But the Lakers released a statement confirming that Howard had notified the Lakers of his decision to not return.
"We have been informed of Dwight's decision to not return to the Lakers. Naturally we're disappointed," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. "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."
Shortly after, Howard tweeted confirmation himself:
I've decided to become a member of the Houston Rockets. I feel its the best place for me and I am excited (cont) http://t.co/h8WK4yP3zB— Dwight Howard (@DwightHoward) July 6, 2013
(Howard's full message: "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."
After spending his first eight seasons with the Magic, Howard was traded to the Lakers as the key piece in a four-team deal. The assumption was the Lakers had found a long-term franchise piece to assume the burden of being the face of their franchise after Kobe Bryant retires, but Howard has gone another direction, leaving the Lakers with their hat in their hands.
Recovering from back surgery, Howard wasn't nearly as dominant or productive in L.A. parterning with Bryant, as the Lakers slogged through a miserably disappointing season that ended with them scraping into the playoffs and uncerimoniously getting swept by the Spurs.
There were reports of tension between Bryant and Howard and rising speculation that Howard did not enjoy the scrutiny and attention that came with playing for the Lakers.
A three-time Defensive Player of the Year, Howard immediately catapults the Rockets into the class of the West. It's a young team with a budding superstar in Harden with young, quality depth assembled as well. The Rockets took the Thunder to six games in the opening round of the playoffs, but showed extreme promise while doing so.
The Rockets were said to be hot on the trail of Howard for a few years now, also attempting to pull off a deal to get him in 2011 when Howard's will-he-won't-he trade deadline ordeal ended with him remaining with him electing to remain with the Magic for the rest of that season.
Clearing cap space off the books in hordes, general manager Daryl Morey opened the possibility to make a run at Howard early, and executed his plan to perfection. The Rockets had the room necessary, the roster to entice him, and the presentation to convince him.
Howard, 28, averaged 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 76 games last season for the Lakers.