The Rockets made it official this afternoon, introducing Dwight Howard at a press conference and releasing a statement on their four-year maximum-salary deal with the big man. The move brings an end to nearly two years of questions about the future seven-time All-Star, who pushed for a trade from the Magic in 2012 and wound up quickly souring on his brief tenure with the Lakers. Throughout the process, Howard often appeared indecisive, and his back-and-forth on the night he made he decision to sign with Houston provided a fitting coda to the affair.
The contract is worth a total of $87,591,270 through 2016/17, more than $30MM less than Howard could have earned in a new deal with the Lakers, though the lack of a state income tax in Texas offsets that difference. The pact includes an option for the final season that will give Howard the choice of leaving in the summer of 2016. Agent Dan Fegan of Relativity Sports was Howard's primary representative as they picked the Rockets over the Lakers, Warriors, Mavericks and Hawks, the other four finalists in the mix for the most sought-after free agent of 2013.
"Dwight is the biggest free agent acquisition in the history of the Rockets," owner Leslie Alexander said as part of the team's statement. "His addition puts us in contention. This is good for the city and especially the fans. Fans are going to have a great time this year. This team will be tremendous fun to watch."
Howard's deal is the second maximum contract on the Rockets payroll, with James Harden's five-year extension kicking in this coming season. Together they'll make $34,214,428 this coming season, or about 58.3% of the salary cap. Still, the team appears to be in the hunt for a third star, reportedly dangling Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik in an effort to sign-and-trade for Josh Smith before he wound up with the Pistons. Morey has insisted he's not interested in letting them go, reiterating that point to reporters today (Twitter link). In any case, the Rockets will be building around Howard and Harden in the years to come.