The move is stunning for Lakers fans, but no surprise considering the factors in Houston's favor -- young stars, a pipeline to the global market, built-in mentors in Hakeem Olajuwon and Kevin McHale and the chance to escape the fishbowl that is playing in the country's second-largest media market.
There are a multitude of implications stemming from the fact that LA lost out on their own free agent, the biggest of the 2013 crop, even when they had a substantial financial advantage. But in the end, Houston biggest advantage was one that was enough to sell Howard in the end, and probably did all along:
The Rockets are not the Lakers.
The 2012-13 season was mentally draining on Howard. He had to endure a coaching change within five games, seeing the coach of his dreams slip through the cracks only to be led by a coach he wasn't compatible with, deal with a superstar who challenged him like never before and get crushed by a fan base after playing injured for most of the season.
It wasn't easy to endure all of that, and if he associated those hardships with the Lakers organization, then it's easy to see why he chose to go elsewhere.
The path of least resistance is the trump card Houston had in its back pocket when they went into a Beverly Hills hotel to give the big man their best sales pitch. They had James Harden, Chandler Parsons and the ability to build an offense designed to feature him in the post. All the Lakers had was a coach that couldn't mesh with his bigs and a promise that for the foreseeable future that he wasn't going anywhere.
The Rockets give Howard a platform where he can succeed without winning it all. Houston fans, unlike Lakers fans, don't expect titles every year.
To be fair to Howard, he had a strong season while injured. He was the NBA's only player to average over 17 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks per game in 2012-13. That seems to be lost on a lot of Purple-and-Gold faithful who turned on Howard quicker than the Lakers fired Mike Brown last season.
Trolling Howard won't bring him back, but he deserves some criticism for taking the easy way out. Kobe Bryant went into the meeting with Howard and his representatives and challenged him. He cited all of the history, championship pedigree and opportunity to follow in that tradition as reasons to stay in Los Angeles and learn from those who did it before.
But going back to the Lakers, putting up with another tough season of unfulfilled expectations and dealing with Bryant and Mike D'Antoni for another year en route to potentially greener pastures in 2014 couldn't compete with the opportunity to play with young stars and no pressure right away in Texas.
Can anyone really blame him for choosing that path? To stay in L.A. would've been noble, but joining Houston was a virtual no-brainer for basketball reasons.
Fans in LA will hate him forever, but with nowhere to go for the next four years, Rockets fans will embrace him as their own... until the Dwightmare, Part III arrives in four years, that is.
For more on the Lakers and the NBA, catch up with this author on Twitter @MikeJonesTweets
Michael C. Jones covers the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA as a Southern California-based sports journalist and editor. He contributes to SB Nation in addition to Yahoo! Sports and is the Managing Editor and Founder of Sports Out West.
- Sports & Recreation
- Dwight Howard
- Houston Rockets