The Houston Rockets won a pair of NBA titles in 1994 and 1995 behind the presence of one of basketball’s greatest centers, Hakeem Olajuwon. When the 2013 free agency period officially opens in a few days time, they will introduce a big man desperately attempting to create a legacy to himself. It has been revealed that the NBA’s top free agent, Dwight Howard, will leave the Los Angeles Lakers and join the Rockets.
The big question now is whether up and coming point guard James Harden and Howard can win an NBA title. It isn’t quite the same as the Miami Heat’s ‘big three’, especially in terms of the drama, but Houston’s recent regeneration acquiring Harden last season and Howard now suggests that this franchise might be ready for a third championship.
The reasons for Howard’s decision are obvious. He wasn’t happy in LA. He didn’t enjoy the attention, he didn’t enjoy playing for head coach Mike D’Antoni and he struggled to work effectively with Kobe Bryant. He joins a team that plays in a smaller market, with a co-star who he should enjoy better chemistry with, and for a young team that has a lot of pieces.
However, Howard struggled to step up in the big games during his time with the Orlando Magic and his latest bolting from LA is once again reflective of a player who isn’t ready to make an impact on the main stage.
Of course, the situation in Houston is unlike any other. He has a coach in Kevinn McHale, who is an all-time great NBA basketball player and should know a thing or two about working with big men.
This is also a unique situation for Howard. He has a legitimate co-superstar. Harden, at just 23 years old, isn’t established like Kobe. This a pairing that has the opportunity and time to grow together over the next five years and more. That’s extremely positive news for a Houston franchise that returned to the postseason in 2013 after missing the playoffs altogether in three straight seasons.
Can Howard finally take that final step? Can he put down his often personal and slightly selfish concerns to one side and drive a team through the postseason? We probably won’t know for at least a couple of seasons, but there’s little doubt that he has picked the best situation for that phase of his development to finally occur.