"It was expected," said O'Neal of Howard's defection during a news conference Saturday at
O'Neal was serving as a grand marshal for
"Everybody want to do it, but when you get there, there are certain pressures," he continued. "I think it was a safe move for him to go to a little town like Houston. That's right, little town. I said it."
O'Neal won three titles with the Lakers from 2000-2002. The team traded him when a suitable contract extension couldn't be reached, and O'Neal won a fourth championship with the
Howard has one
The free agency period began on July 1. Howard announced his decision on Friday.
Howard will join a formidable group in Houston, including
The Lakers and Rockets finished the season with identical 45-37 records. Howard spent one season with the Lakers following an off-season trade from the Magic.