It’s almost June, so that means it’s time for Dwight Howard to take over as the NBA’s prime story. Everyone knew that the Houston Rockets were gearing to make a big splash this offseason, but the Dwight Howard rumors just got cranked to full volume. In a complete reversal of narrative from last summer, when sources claimed Howard would absolutely not sign with Houston, we’re now swimming in reports that he’s very interested in what the Rockets have to offer. Gird whatever you may have to gird; the Rockets are about to be at the center of the chaos.
How many dwightmares does this make now? Including last summer’s mayhem and the anticlimactic resolution of the trade deadline before that, I’m counting two and a half. Whatever number we put on this sequel, the subtitle has to be something like “Houston’s Revenge.” Last season’s free agency revolved around the Orlando Magic, the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers, with Dwight Howard’s preferences seemingly changing by the day. When the smoke eventually cleared, a seemingly done deal with Brooklyn had given way to a seemingly terrible deal between the Lakers, the Magic, the Denver Nuggets and the Philadelphia 76ers. Houston and Rockets general manager Daryl Morey had been mentioned repeatedly, but primarily as a sidenote or a leverage tactic by one side or another. This time, it’s different.
The Rockets team, media and followers need to be ready for another summer of scrutiny and madness, this time with Houston’s name in bright lights. Other than the Lakers themselves, the Rockets were the first team mentioned, and that’s just how Morey’s front office should want it. With an incredible acquisition in James Harden and a remarkable rebuilding year that ended in the playoffs, the Rockets have put themselves in a very powerful position. As a team with nearly max cap space (and the willingness to shed a few contracts to get all the way to max space) and a very promising and very young core, Houston’s suddenly turning heads. Most importantly, they’re turning the heads that matter. Free agents and front offices have taken notice, for better and for worse.
None of this story is set in stone, of course. If that were the case, this wouldn’t be a weeks-long saga. We’d be six to twelve weeks in the future, discussing how free agency went. As it is, there’s no guarantee that anything will actually happen. The most likely scenario remains one in which Howard stays on the Lakers, and apparently the least likely scenario is a move to the L.A. Clippers. Howard’s alleged comments may be merely another leveraging tactic, they may be just unsubstantiated reports, or they may be truth straight from the mind of the man. With weeks to go until the beginning of the free agency period, and with two rounds of playoff basketball left to enjoy, there’s not much way for this to develop right now. Of course, that won’t stop discussion.
The only thing that’s for sure is that Houston will make every effort to sign any players who can make them a better team. If Morey judges Howard to be the best available player, the attempts to sell Dwight on Houston will come early and often. Regardless of opinions about Howard’s character, he’s clearly an elite player, and is an asset on the court for any team. The circus has started early this summer, and Houston can expect to be in the center ring, with Morey happily wearing the top hat.