Dwight Howard, who is generally regarded as the top center in basketball, has shaken up the NBA landscape once again by announcing his decision to leave the Los Angeles Lakers and join the Houston Rockets.
The Lakers' general manager, Mitch Kupchak, was the latest to announce the move, saying Friday night that Howard had informed him of his choice.
"We have been informed of Dwight's decision to not return to the Lakers. Naturally we're disappointed. However, we will now move forward in a different direction with the future of the franchise and, as always, will do our best to build the best team possible, one our great Lakers fans will be proud to support," Kupchak said.
"To Dwight, we thank him for his time and consideration, and for his efforts with us last season. We wish him the best of luck on the remainder of his NBA career."
The free agent also announced his decision on Twitter on Friday.
"I've decided to become a member of the Houston Rockets. I feel its (sic) the best place for me and I am excited about joining the Rockets and I'm looking forward to a great season. I want to thank the fans in Los Angeles and wish them the best," Howard said.
The 27-year-old center, who cannot officially sign any deal with a new franchise until July 10, will team up in Houston with star shooting guard James Harden, 23, to form one of the league's top tandems.
Howard - a five-time all-NBA first teamer and three-time NBA defensive player of the year - is moving to Houston just a year after leaving the Orlando Magic to join the Lakers amid much hoopla. Howard led the Magic to the NBA Finals in 2009.
Although the Lakers and their star-studded cast of Howard, Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash were touted as title contenders in 2012-13, injuries played havoc with their season and they ended up being swept in the first round of the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs.
Howard led the NBA in rebounding last season, but he had an off year in the scoring department after undergoing surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back in the spring of 2012. EFE