The way the NBA's calendar works, the period during which teams can begin negotiating with free agents starts at midnight Eastern time on July 1. From there, deals can be verbally agreed to between teams and players over the next several days, but for some odd reason, a moratorium exists whereby the deals can't be officially signed until July 10.
Not only can the agreed-to deals not be signed during those ten days, but team officials can't even openly discuss the players with whom they've agreed to contracts. No bragging, no analyzing, no gloating, no nothing. Publicly, at least.
The Rockets were reminded of this the hard way on Tuesday afternoon when they were thumped to the tune of $150,000 by the league for Daryl Morey's public comments about Dwight Howard in some circles of the media.
In all my years of following the NBA, I don't ever remember a player backing out of a deal he agreed to between July 1 and July 10, but if there were one player about whom we should be nervous, is it not Dwight Howard?
I mean, let's not forget, this is a guy who hasn't been able to find a coach he can get along with, who waffled back and forth on wanting a trade from Orlando in 2012, before eventually opting to extend his deal for another year just because he didn't want to make people angry. Eventually, he bitched and moaned his way into a trade from Orlando to Los Angeles, where he had a season that he himself called a "nightmare."
Essentially, Howard's track record is dotted with the emotional consistency of a seventh-grade girl.
Admit it, when ESPN's Chris Broussard reported last Friday evening that Howard had changed his mind on agreeing to a deal with the Rockets and was "now 50-50 between the Rockets and Lakers," you yawned and were like, "Yeah....and?" Weren't you? I was! Even if it turned out not to be true, it was still not at all that surprising.
That's a little scary.
So until Wednesday afternoon arrives (or whenever Howard finally, literally signs his deal), and Howard finally puts pen to paper to say that he will be a member of the Houston Rockets, we cross our fingers and look for signs that indeed, this is happening!
By the way, there's still a huge part of me that can't believe this is happening. When has a free agent of Howard's magnitude without previous ties to Houston -- in which case, Roger and Andy don't count -- decided to sign here? And leaving the Lakers on top of it? This is truly a monumental week for Houston.
Anyway, back to looking for affirmation. Tuesday morning, we eternal skeptics may have gotten our biggest shred of evidence so far that this is really going down -- Dwight Howard was actually in Houston! Ostensibly, it was to take his physical before signing his deal, but Howard was also putting last year's copy of the Houston Press "Best Of" issue to work, chowing down with Rockets trainer Keith Jones at 2012 Best Breakfast winner the breakfast klub!
And taking it even a step further, Howard actually picked up the tab for the entire restaurant! Dwight Howard clearly knows the way to the heart of Houstonians, and that's through transforming into the Santa Claus of chicken and waffles! FREE GRUB!! I mean, I realize that it's just one day, but I'd have to say that if he continues at this pace (buying food for hundreds of Houstonians each and every day), Dwight Howard will be the most popular Houston Rocket of all time.
(Yeah, I know...Hakeem...two titles....um, need I remind you, we like to eat?!)
I'm sure he said all the right things, because at this point Howard was in a good mood. Here's hoping the rest of his trip to Houston went well. We don't need anything like the rain showers Tuesday afternoon or a bird pooping on his head radically shifting Howard's mind back over to the Lakers at the last minute.
Wednesday is the day the three-year transformation of this Rockets roster from pedestrian to elite will be essentially complete. Until Howard actually signs, I'll be chewing my nails down to the skin and rocking back and forth in this chair mumbling to myself, if anybody needs me.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 Yahoo! Sports Radio from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and nationally on the Yahoo! Sports Radio network Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon CST. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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