Superstar free-agent center Dwight Howard spurned the Los Angeles Lakers and informed Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey that he plans to sign a four-year, $88 million contract with the Rockets.
Howard's contract with the Rockets can't officially be signed until Wednesday.
Howard called Morey on the phone Friday night after informing Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak he wouldn't re-sign with the franchise.
"I screamed," Morey told Yahoo! Sports. "I wasn't very presidential."
Howard later announced his decision on his Twitter account and replaced his Lakers avatar photo with one of him in a Rockets uniform:
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 is eligible for a four-year, $88 million maximum deal from the Rockets unless they negotiate a sign-and-trade deal with the Lakers. His final hesitancy centered on leaving a fifth guaranteed year and $30 million – which the Lakers could have given him – on the negotiating table, sources told Y! Sports.
"On the phone, he told me, 'I'm focused on just working, that everything is going to be about winning,' " Morey said. "He said he had a tough decision to make about salary, and that he was coming here for a chance to win."
The decision is a devastating blow to the Lakers and transforms the Rockets – with Howard joining All-Star guard James Harden and a strong supporting cast – into legitimate Western Conference championship contenders.
The New Orleans Pelicans are pursuing Rockets center Omer Asik, and are open to the idea of trading forward Ryan Anderson to Houston, league sources told Yahoo! Sports. The players' salaries make the trade palatable, and Asik would give the Pelicans a starting center to play alongside No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis. Still, the Pelicans could resist parting with Anderson if they only get Asik in return.
Anderson made his reputation in the league playing alongside Howard with the Orlando Magic. He is the kind of stretch forward who can open the floor for Howard.
In addition to the Rockets and Lakers, Howard seriously considered the Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors. He informed the Mavs and Warriors earlier Friday that they were no longer in the running. After meeting with the five teams – his hometown Atlanta Hawks were part of the group to speak with him – in Los Angeles, Howard spent the past few days weighing his decision in Colorado. He returned to Los Angeles on Friday evening then informed the Lakers of his decision.
"In our meeting, everything Dwight asked about was centered around winning – about making sure there was a nutritionist, a strength guy," Morey told Y! Sports. "Every question he asked was about winning, about the team – do we need more shooting?"
USA Today first reported Howard's decision.
Related coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
• With Dwight Howard gone, Lakers need new plan
• Kobe Bryant's Instagram reaction to Dwight Howard's depature
• Warriors land Andre Iguodala, send players and draft picks to Jazz