Why did Dwight Howard leave the Lakers for the Rockets?
Rockets GM Daryl Morey made a thorough, strong pitch
Prior to the 2012-13 season, Morey was developing a reputation as an executive overly focused on churning through small assets while being unable to close on big-name targets via trade or free agency. Indeed, Howard had previously ruled out the Rockets as a possible landing spot as he weighed his options dating back to his time with the Magic. The book on Morey — and the book on the Rockets — changed when he flipped Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and picks for James Harden, who blossomed into an All-Star this season. All of a sudden, Morey had Harden as his ace in the hole in free-agency pitches. All of a sudden, a player like Howard would be the second leg, rather than the first, of a Big 3 core. Morey had incorporated his love of technology into his previous pitches, but he took things to a new level with Howard this time around.
• Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle: “Batting leadoff in the competition to win Howard, 27, the Rockets delegation gathered throughout the day Sunday in Beverly Hills to make their case directly to the player they have long hoped to make the next franchise center. … They prepared information about the marketing potential that comes with playing for the Rockets, still wildly popular in China with its enormous and avid fan base. They were ready to present information about living and playing in Houston, about their new basketball facilities and the camaraderie and chemistry they believe they have with their players, past and present. … There were books and an Ipad with much of the information presented to be left with Howard and his representatives, along with video testimonials from, among others, Yao Ming and Dikembe Mutombo.”
• Sam Gardner, FoxSports.com: “Late Thursday and early Friday, Morey took to Twitter to make one last pitch to Howard, hoping to sell him on Houston — using his daughter, her friends and a two-time Emmy winner to attempt to woo the All-Star center.”
• Daryl Morey: “Years of work by Dwight & Rockets went into this. This team is going to be special.”
• Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports: “Rockets general manager Daryl Morey conceived and executed an impeccable plan, gutting his roster, drafting undervalued prospects with low picks [Chandler Parsons], signing undervalued players [Patrick Beverley], snagging restricted free agents with toxic offer sheets [Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin] and assembling the assets to make a trade for a star guard [James Harden].”
Rockets coach Kevin McHale has instant credibility
A Hall of Famer with seven All-Star appearances and three titles to his name, plus a reputation as one of the most technically sound big men to ever play the game, McHale can communicate with Howard on a level that was simply impossible for Magic coach Stan Van Gundy or Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni. Will that level of communication actually pay off in a meaningful way? That’s to be determined, but Howard made it clear that McHale — and Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon, with whom he has previously worked — were valued added parts of Houston’s presentation.
• Dwight Howard, to the Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen: “I’m looking forward to having [Hakeem Olajuwon] and Kevin McHale push me. When I sat down with Kevin, he reminded me a lot of the drive of Clifford Ray [a former Magic assistant coach] when Clifford Ray was my big man coach. He pushed me to the limit every day and then I worked out. He always said, ‘I’m going to kick your [butt]’ and at the end of the day give you a hug.’”
• Dwight Howard, as quoted by Mike Bresnahan and T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times: “And no offense to [Lakers Coach] Mike D’Antoni, but we’re talking about Kevin McHale, who had a million moves in the post.”
• Kevin McHale to ESPN.com’s Mike Wallace: ”I had a pretty good feeling on it,” McHale said. “But you never really know until everything is done. We had a great meeting July 1. I really thought positively. We could help each other. He’s just got to get out there and play. … I think Dwight is in the process of evolving and changing. He says he feels way better and healthier now than he has been. His back is healthy. I anticipate him coming in and doing what he did for years: Being the best, most dominant center in the league.”