The Dwight Howard decision finally came, and the free-agent center chose the Houston Rockets over the Lakers.
Before Howard met with the Rockets on Monday, Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak got in a quick moment with the all-star. Steve Nash and Magic Johnson took to Twitter to try to convince him to stay.
It was clear leading up to the decision that Howard’s pursuit of happiness would lead him out of town.
Of course, that’s easier to say looking back. Howard’s “See you in China” message in a YouTube clip referred not to the Lakers’ scheduled preseason games in October, but a trip planned with Adidas.
Rockets’ General Manager Daryl Morey also used Twitter and YouTube to try to lure the center.
Before Howard decided, Kobe Bryant had repeated that his plans had changed, and that he might play an additional three years before retiring. His response to the news to “unfollow” Howard and to post a picture of himself with Pau Gasol on Instagram.
Howard downplayed speculation that anything Bryant said had led to his departure.
Naturally, there was a significant reaction out of Los Angeles. Guard Jodie Meeks took to Twitter to make it clear he didn’t post an altered photo of Howard in drag.
When the free-agency period began on July 1, the Lakers put out initial feelers on other players but needed to know Howard’s decision before making a move.
Without the expensive center, the Lakers’ hefty tax bill for next season has dwindled considerably, although the team didn’t gain any spending tools to replace him this season.
What’s next for the Lakers? Shopping with cap room in 2014, a possible target might be Carmelo Anthony who can opt out of his contract with the New York Knicks.
The Lakers may still choose to use their one-time amnesty on Metta World Peace, although the decision won’t be made until the July 10-17 window. Undeterred, the creative forward tweeted that he expects the Lakers and Rockets to meet in the Western Conference finals.
By the end of the week, despite an abundance of verbal agreements made by other teams around the league, the Lakers had yet to make a free-agent acquisition.
Finally, a wealth intelligence firm reports that Bryant has the greatest net worth in the NBA.