Dwight Howard tweets that he’ll sign with Rockets

Dwight Howard never grew comfortable playing with Kobe Bryant

and for Mike D’Antoni.

Once a wide-smiling, fun-loving big guy, Howard lacked that joy

in Los Angeles.

The Rockets are confident he’ll find it again in Houston.

”We’re going to get a smile back on his face that hasn’t been

on it for a couple of years because of various things, injury and

maybe the team situation he was in at the time,” general manager

Daryl Morey told Comcast SportsNet Houston. ”He’s going to have a

smile back on his face.”

The Rockets were the ones beaming Friday, thanks to Howard’s

choice to take less money in hopes of more happiness.

”I’ve decided to become a member of the Houston Rockets. I feel

(it’s) the best place for me and I am excited about joining the

Rockets and I’m looking forward to a great season,” Howard wrote

on Twitter.

He leaves behind an extra $30 million and an offense under

D’Antoni that he was never fully pleased with, joining a Rockets

team that could become an immediate contender in the Western

Conference with the All-Star center in the middle.

”Years of work by Dwight & Rockets went into this. This

team is going to be special,” Morey tweeted.

USA Today first reported earlier Friday that Howard would join

the Rockets, where he will team with All-Star James Harden to give

the Rockets a potentially potent inside-outside combination.

That didn’t quite end the Howard saga, which has dragged on a

couple of years. Howard spoke again with the Lakers amid reports he

was changing his mind.

Turns out, he was just saying goodbye.

”We have been informed of Dwight’s decision to not return to

the Lakers,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a

statement. ”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.

”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.”

Dallas, Golden State and Atlanta were the other suitors

interested in Howard.

But it was the Rockets, who brought Hall of Fame center Hakeem

Olajuwon with them when they made their pitch to Howard on Monday,

who beat out the other teams.

And now Howard will follow the likes of Olajuwon and Yao Ming in

Houston’s middle.

The deal can’t become official until July 10, after next

season’s salary cap has been set. The Rockets can give him a

four-year deal worth about $88 million, a year less and far below

the $118 million the Lakers could have offered.

The Lakers acquired Howard last August from Orlando as part of a

four-way trade that also included Philadelphia and Denver.

He averaged 17.1 points and 12.4 rebounds in 76 games, good

numbers but far from his usual dominant play in eight seasons with

the Magic as he played his way back into shape following back

surgery.

He wasn’t a natural fit in D’Antoni’s system, had what appeared

at times to be a strained relationship with Bryant and acknowledged

not having fun at times.

Bryant apparently won’t miss him. Though he took part in the

Lakers’ meeting with Howard on Tuesday, the five-time champion

posted a photo on Instagram of himself and Pau Gasol, the Lakers’

remaining big man, shortly after Howard’s decision.

Howard’s awkward departure is right in line with the confusion

that’s followed him over the last few years.

The No. 1 pick in the 2004 draft was one of the NBA’s most

popular and likable players, an Olympic gold medalist who led the

Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals – where they lost to Bryant and the

Lakers.

But he decided a couple of years later that he wanted out of

Orlando, and the Magic eventually gave his agent permission to

negotiate with the Nets, Mavericks and Lakers about arranging a

trade.

Yet Howard would later agree to not opt for free agency,

remaining with the Magic for the 2011-12 season. Howard’s season

ended prematurely when he needed back surgery, and Orlando finally

dealt him to Los Angeles.

The Lakers’ season was a disappointment, with Bryant, Gasol and

Steve Nash all missing time with injuries. They never developed any

chemistry, getting swept in the first round of the playoffs by San

Antonio.

The Rockets believe he’ll find that chemistry in Houston.

”We have good teammates. They’re young. They’re guys who are

great not only on the floor but off. He’s going to get along great

with our team,” Morey said in an interview with Comcast SportsNet

Houston.