It's official, Rocket fans! You can now rejoice (as if you haven't been rejoicing all weekend)!
Dwight Howard is a Houston Rocket!
Rocket ticket agents can finally say his name without fear of reprisal, Daryl Morey can openly speak about him without sustaining a $150,000 parking ticket, and Jason Friedman of Rockets.com can now analyze what Dwight's presence means to this team (while using the word "Sisyphean," I might add) without being ridiculously over-thought into of some variation of tampering by the league.
Saturday was the first of what should be many great days for Rocket fans going forward, and it all started with Howard finally putting his name on the dotted line to the tune of 4 years, $88 million (BEST. TUNE. EVER.) on Saturday morning.
It took Dwight allowing the dominos of NBA business to fall, hanging around Houston patiently for a few days to arrive at that point Saturday morning. First, it required former Philadelphia 76er point guard Jrue Holiday to return from his honeymoon so he could get traded to New Orleans, which then allowed Morey to flip Royce White to the Sixers, opening up the necessary cap space for the Rockets to sign Howard. (Somehow, it just felt painfully appropriate that Royce White was at least tangentially involved in the Howard delay these last few days. Good riddance, Royce.)
From there, it was off to the actual arena area in Toyota Center around noon Saturday to meet with a welcoming throng of Houston media, validating my theory that the magnitude of a free agent is directly proportional to the area of the Toyota Center in which their press conference takes place:
Dwight Howard? Inside the actual 20,000 seat basketball arena. Jeremy Lin? In the Rockets amply sized practice court area. Trevor Ariza? In a broom closet somewhere off of the Lexus Lounge. (Two of those three are accurate, the other one is mere hindsight of where it should have taken place.)
Dwight said and did all the right things, paying tribute to the legendary Rocket big men of yesteryear. Of the Hall of Famer Rockets, present and future, only Moses Malone was absent from the proceedings (Did anybody suggest having Caldwell Jones, with Rodney McCray sitting on his lap, pinch hit for him?). Dwight, wisely paid respect to the legendary Celtic big man who will double as his head coach, Kevin McHale, and talked about things like titles, winning, and the community.
Perhaps the best moment of the entire press conference happened in the first two minutes when Les Alexander unsolicited went in on the topic of criticism for Dwight "smiling too much" and that being some sort of indicator that he's not hyper-competitive enough. Les was so disgusted by that notion that he shriveled up his face as if Dwight or someone nearby ripped a rancid fart (and truthfully, from what we know about Dwight, he may have), and said that the conjecture over Dwight's smiling was "so stupid."
Concur, Les. Couldn't agree more. If you win titles and smile a lot, you're Magic Johnson. If you haven't won a title and smile a lot, you're a clown. That's the lazy narrative. From there, Dwight and the army of seven footers took the party outdoors to a rally of sweaty, sticky Rocket fans waiting to get a glimpse of the train back to relevance. Twenty years ago, the spiritual connection with the crowd would have been conveyed in words and waves and a few high fives.
But it's 2013. These days, the beginning of a long and beautiful relationship between an athlete and a city starts with a tweet and a POV video bite on that athlete's Instagram account!
Red nation http://t.co/cnu73QnDMY
— Dwight Howard (@DwightHoward) July 13, 2013
I'm sure for many of the red-clad Rocket fans at the rally on Saturday, that was one of the greatest steam baths they've ever had.
Dwight Howard is a Rocket! He loves us! We love him!
And that's all great. In a league with LeBron James, where there are so few good answers to the question "How can we win an NBA championship?", the Rockets have seemingly secured one of the best answers to that question. Time will tell if it's a correct answer.
My only word of caution is this: Before you go giving your "sports fan's heart" unconditionally and pledging your undying loyalty to Dwight Howard, watch the videos below. They're Dwight's introductory press conference in Los Angeles 11 months ago, a smile-filled verbal confetti shower of the words "fun" and "happy," followed by his post season presser where eight months later, he deemed 2012-13 a "nightmare."
The dynamic is most certainly different in Houston going forward than it was in Los Angeles last season (and would have been in LA going forward). Dwight is better positioned for success individually, as a team, mentally, physically, everything, in Houston than he would have been in Los Angeles.
But nothing is certain. The honeymoon's begun, soon it'll be over, and it'll be time to go to work.
The road to relevance -- championship level relevance -- began Saturday.
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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