Rockets achieve their Dwight dream ... or Dwightmare?
With an apparent commitment from Dwight Howard on Friday, the Rockets moved on to Phase II of their plan ... or is it a Dwightmare?
That of Dwight Howard himself.
We should judge circumstances in sports by actions and not words, and the actions of the Rockets on Friday betrayed them as a team that knows it is getting Howard. Having cleared cap room for Howard with two years of expertly executed moves, capped with sending Thomas Robinson to Portland this week, the Rockets on Friday moved on to Phase II of their Dwight dream.
Or is it a Dwightmare? That, we don't know yet.
What we know is that the Mavericks, Hawks and Warriors were politely told "thanks, but no thanks" by Howard and his camp on Friday. We know that two league sources confirmed to CBSSports.com a report by USA Today that the team Howard has decided to sign with the Rockets.
We also know that Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeted, "While we are excited & cautiously optimistic @DwightHoward might choose Houston, we have not yet heard about his decision."
We know from reports by the Los Angeles Times and other Lakers media outlets that the Lakers were not yet informed of Howard's decision by Friday afternoon on the West Coast.
And finally, we know from reports by the Los Angeles Times, SI.com and others -- I lose track of all the reports, honestly -- that Howard and his agent, Dan Fegan, were flying to LA to meet with Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak before the end of the day.
What does it all mean? Well, if you judge by actions and not words, you behold a Rockets team that certainly is acting as though it has secured a commitment from Howard. League sources say the Rockets are open to revisiting trade talks that would send Omer Asik to the Hawks in a sign-and-trade for Josh Smith, Howard's AAU teammate in Atlanta. Word among rival teams on Friday also was that Houston was considering a deal that would send Asik to New Orleans for Ryan Anderson, a 3-point sniper who was a strategic complement to Howard when the two were in Orlando. One league source, however, said the proposed Anderson deal wasn't progressing, and another pointed out that Howard and Anderson did not get along in Orlando.
Regardless, either move would be based on the idea that the Rockets are getting Howard.
Elsewhere, league business resumed with the Howard drama apparently over. Trades and signings erupted with a fervor that had been largely absent from the free-agent negotiating period -- O.J. Mayo to Milwaukee, Jose Calderon to Dallas, Chris Copeland to Indiana, Royce White to Philadelphia.
So what's the problem?
The intrigue comes from Howard's waffling past and his track record of having trouble disappointing people in person. What is the point of this face-to-face meeting with the Lakers? A courtesy breakup?
Maybe. And that would be a classy move on Howard's part, if that's his motivation. But with reports emerging Friday night that Howard was having second thoughts, it is my unfortunate duty to remind you that in the spring of 2012, Howard 1) told the Magic he was going to waive his opt-out clause; 2) backtracked and informed the team he would not waive his opt-out clause, pressuring the team to trade him within 24 hours; and 3) changed his mind again and decided to waive the opt-out clause, committing to another season in Orlando. That commitment lasted only five months, when Howard finally forced his way out of Orlando with the trade that sent him to the Lakers -- the team he is now threatening to leave.
Part III happened just hours before the 2012 trade deadline, after a face-to-face meeting between Howard and the Magic brass. His agent, Fegan, was not present.
Potentially, that's the difference here: Fegan is expected to be present when Howard meets with the Lakers one last time before finalizing his decision. And as one of the most powerful agents in the NBA, it's hard to imagine that Fegan would put himself in a position to go through a repeat of the 2012 Dwightmare.
Frankly, it's impossible to imagine that a future Hall of Famer would put himself in a position to thoroughly botch not only his career (by becoming the first star player known to mankind to leave the Lakers voluntarily) but also his reputation (by making LeBron James' nationally televised "Decision" seem worthy of an Emmy.)
Basically, Howard can't win no matter what he does now. At this point, Dwight Howard drama hasn't jumped the shark, it's orbiting an entire planet inhabited only by sharks.
So there's no reason to say Howard has not chosen the Rockets. There's no evidence that Howard will change his mind once he gets back to LA. But when Dwight Howard is involved, actions speak much louder than words. And if you thought Howard's free-agent decision was going to come neatly wrapped with a bow on top, that was not something rational to think.
No wonder the smartest guy involved here, Daryl Morey, resisted the urge to celebrate his long, arduous pursuit of Howard on Friday. Until we hear from Howard himself, there's nothing to celebrate. And even then, partygoer beware.
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