Though the Los Angeles Lakers undoubtedly hope that Howard would make a decision about his future without taking too much time, the big man reportedly has no intention of expediting the process. He’s prepared to do his due diligence and take his time. And his “due diligence” will include giving strong consideration to a number of teams that aren’t the Lakers, most notably the Houston Rockets.
According to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, Howard’s return to Hollywood is far from a given and he will consider spurning the Lakers in favor of the Rockets:
With the Lakers hoping for a swift decision from Dwight Howard on his free agency this summer, the All-Star center has given no indication he will rush the process and has privately indicated he plans to give strong consideration to multiple teams, league sources told CBSSports.com.
With six weeks to go before Howard becomes an unrestricted free agent, the team that is said to intrigue him the most is the Houston Rockets, according to multiple people briefed on internal conversations surrounding Howard’s free-agent decision. The Rockets have a young star, James Harden, who has proved himself worthy of playing the leading role for the franchise; a budding 3-point shooting threat in Chandler Parsons; a defensive-minded coach in Kevin McHale; and Omer Asik, the kind of 7-footer Howard is believed to want next to him in the frontcourt.
Berger also adds that the Dallas Mavericks and the Atlanta Hawks are on his list as well.
The news is a surprise to just about no one. Though Los Angeles has to be considered a favorite of Howard’s (money), he has never been wined and dined by a slew of suitors before. Knowing how rocky a start he got off to with the Lakers, of course he’s going to experience unrestricted free agency to the fullest. And of course the Rockets are the Lakers’ biggest threats.
Aside from being intrigued by the prospect playing alongside the bearded wonder in James Harden, the Rockets have a foray of shooters that will be able to play to Dwight’s advantages in the low post. The Lakers don’t have many shooters, which leaves Howard to be double (and triple) teamed more than he would like. In Houston, he would have a number of deep-ball savants who would make double-teaming Howard much more difficult for opposing defenses.
I’m not exactly sure what he sees in Houston’s offense, though.
The Rockets were 28th in points allowed this past season (102.5) and while Kevin McHale may be a defensive-minded coach, he doesn’t have the necessary personnel to transform Houston into a defensive juggernaut. Signing Howard would be a step in the right direction, but as we saw in Tinseltown, he can’t change the culture on his own.
I’m also confused by his reported affinity for Omer Asik. Howard has never worked well with other players who need to be in the post with him, most recently Pau Gasol. Asik has even less range than the Gasol, so unless Howard plans on Omer coming off the bench, I find it tough to imagine that he’s overly keen on the idea.
What we have to believe is that the Rockets are a favorite (and not just because I’ve been saying it for awhile now). They’re exactly the young and exuberant team that could play to his athletic stylings. The pressure of winning a championship also wouldn’t be what it is in Los Angeles. And while Harden is a superstar, he’s likely to be more humbling a sidekick for Howard than Kobe Bryant.
Still, given how storied a franchise the Lakers are, we can’t consider them anything less than the favorites.
Howard is a flight risk (though Chris Paul is a bigger one), but both of his feet aren’t already out the door (that we know of). Just because his interest has been peaked by the Rockets doesn’t mean anything. All it really means is that the Lakers aren’t a given and that they’re going to have some competition.
Will the Rockets prove to be competition the Lakers aren’t able to contend with?
Only time will tell.
Or actually, only Dwight will tell.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.