Mike D’Antoni laughs at Dwight Howard’s Move to Houston

FILE: New York Knicks Head Coach D'Antoni ResignsIt’s safe to declare that Dwight Howard’s lone year in Los Angeles was a pretty big failure. Now this isn’t to say that Howard didn’t produce or do what the Lakers expected. He did after all average 17.1 PPG, 12.4 RPG and 2.4 BPG. But considering his own personal standards and the expectations placed on L.A. last year, failure is the only word that perfectly describes the result.

With the addition of Howard at center, some analysts expected the Lakers to win the 2013 NBA Championship. Instead, L.A. spent the entire year evoking predictions on if they’d make the postseason. Despite Kobe Bryant going down with a Achilles tendon tear, the Lakers did slide into the playoffs with a 45-37 record – good enough for the seventh seed. But they were quickly swept by the San Antonio Spurs.

To make matters worse, Howard was quite unhappy with his lack of low-post touches and head coach Mike D’Antoni’s fast-paced offense. In the end, it all added up to the 9-year veteran leaving for what he deems to be greener pastures in Houston.

The Rockets, who also finished with a 45-37 record, have immediately become a contender with Howard, James Harden and a strong supporting cast. But will everything be as rosy as Howard thinks?

dwight-howardNot according to D’Antoni, who laughed at where his former starting center went via free agency. The Los Angeles Daily News wrote the following about coach D’Antoni’s statement:

“The thing that cracks me up is Houston, they do the exact same thing,” D’Antoni said, laughing. “And so (Howard) is gonna go to Houston? OK, so did they talk about change there? Don’t tell me that it’s that different.”

D’Antoni wishes Howard well, but does think he needs to accept what makes him a special player rather than envision himself as something he isn’t yet and may never be.

“He’s a force and he can be really, really good and dominate the league,” D’Antoni said. “But it’s in an area that he’s not loving right now. He wants to dominate a different way, in the low post and all that. But he needs to get better there, and he will. But his greatness is in defense and being a physical force. I think he’d be better served if he embraces that.

dwight-howardIt appears as if D’Antoni has a point since Houston’s team isn’t exactly built to play a halfcourt game and run the offense through Howard. Instead, they have a number of guys who can run the floor like Harden, Chandler Parsons, Patrick Beverley, Francisco Garcia and Carlos Delfino.

Taking these players into account, Rockets head coach Kevin McHale is going to have his work cut out trying to succeed where D’Antoni failed. It’s not easy trying to transform a fast-break offense into one that can absorb Howard’s talents without wasting them.

But if Houston is truly to become the contender that they want to be next season, they’ll have to find a perfect blend. Perhaps the best place to start would be looking at clips of the Los Angeles Lakers from last year and doing the exact opposite of what they did.

Assuming you’ve got a vested interest in how the Rockets do next year, keep in mind that GTBets.eu has the Rockets at 12:1 odds of winning the 2014 NBA Championship. The Lakers, on the other hand, aren’t looking quite as good in the 2014 NBA futures category. Right now, they’re only being given 45:1 odds of winning the championship next season.

Dwight Howard to Houston and Other Big NBA Offseason Moves

dwight-howard-hostonThe Houston Rockets are the big winners of the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. Many NBA analysts and writers tabbed Houston as the favorite to land the 7-time All-Star center all along. And Howard confirmed these rumors with the following tweet:

I’ve decided to become a member of the Houston Rockets. I feel its the best place for me and I am excited about joining the Rockets and I’m looking forward to a great season. I want to thank the fans in Los Angeles and wish them the best.

Many people wondered if Howard would stay at least one more season since the Lakers could’ve offered him $30 million next year. However, he decided that a four-year, $88 million deal with Houston was plenty of money.

He’ll now join a strong Rockets cast that features All-Star shooting guard James Harden (26.3PPG, 6.7RPG), small forward Chandler Parsons (18.2PPG, 6.5RPG), point guard Patrick Beverley (11.8PPG, 2.8APG) and center Omer Asik (12.3PPG, 11.2RPG). Asik isn’t expected to be in Houston much longer though since the Rockets are furiously trying to trade him with the arrival of Howard.

Five teams with cap room courted the thee-time Defensive Player of the Year, including the Lakers, Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks. But after considering all of the offers, Howard chose to go with the team that he feels gives him the best opportunity to win.

dwight-howardThis was supposed to be what Los Angeles was last season. However, they struggled all year long, finally making the playoffs as a seventh seed. Leading scorer Kobe Bryant went down at the end of the regular season, which heavily contributed to San Antonio’s easy sweep of the Lakers. With an aging Bryant still rehabbing his ruptured Achilles tendon, Howard figured that Houston’s young nucleus of Harden, Parsons and Beverley gives him a better long-term chance to win.

Dwight Howard’s signing has created a slight domino effect where other big-name players have finally ended their team search. That said, let’s take a look at some of the recent NBA offseason moves and rumors.

Pistons land Next Best Thing in Josh Smith 

josh-smith-hawksWith several teams focused on Howard, Josh Smith was somewhat of an afterthought in the free agent market…except in the Detroit Piston’s eyes. Detroit management made it clear from the start that Smith was their man, and he rewarded them by signing a 4-year deal worth $56 million.

Last year was pretty dismal for the Pistons after they finished 29-53 and never made a serious playoff push. So having a multi-talented power forward like Smith on board will immediately pay dividends. He averaged 17.5 PPG, 8.4 RPG and 4.2 APG for the Hawks last season. Detroit figures to have one of the league’s better front courts since they also feature 6’11” Greg Monroe (16.0PPG, 9.6RPG) and 6’10” Andre Drummond (7.9PPG, 7.6RPG, 1.6BPG).

Gasol staying put with Lakers

pau-gasol-steve-nashTo say that Pau Gasol struggled to find his place last year with Howard in the lineup was an understatement. The Spaniard suffered one of his worst season ever after averaging 13.7 PPG, 8.6 RPG and shooting 46.6% – all down from career averages of 18.4 PPG, 9.2 RPG and 51.8%.

This being said, it was thought that L.A. might trade Gasol if Howard re-signed with them. Since this fell through, it’s a given that the Lakers will keep Gasol, and he’s likely to move back over from power forward to his natural center position.

Paul Millsap signs Two-Year Deal with Hawks

paul-millsapNow out of the running for Howard and all but guaranteed to lose Smith, Atlanta salvaged something by inking a two-year, $19 million deal with Paul Millsap. The former Utah Jazz power forward averaged 14 PPG and 7 RPG last season, and should make a nice compliment to center Al Horford and PG Jeff Teague.

Millsap’s Utah teammate, DeMarre Carroll, will also be coming to the Hawks after signing a two-year, $5 million deal. The fourth-year man out of Missouri averaged 6.0 PPG and 2.8 RPG in 16.8 MPG.

Dallas Mavericks grab Jose Calderon

There is no consolation prize to losing Dwight Howard this summer – especially for a desperate Mavericks team. But they’re hoping that the addition of PG Jose Calderon can boost their chances of returning to the playoffs next season.

Calderon, who played with both the Raptors and Pistons in 2013, signed a fairly big four-year, $29 million deal with Dallas. He averaged 11.3 PPG, 7.1 APG and shot 90.4% from the free-throw line last year.

San Antonio is eyeing Kenyon Martin

Despite being 35 years old, Kenyon Martin showed that he still has something left in the tank after averaging 7.2 PPG and 5.3 RPG for the New York Knicks. Now that he’s a free agent, the Spurs are interested in adding him to their bench. He would back up Tim Duncan at power forward and spell Tiago Splitter at center.

Chris Copeland signs with the Pacers

Chris Copeland may not be much of a defender, but he can definitely provide some offense (8.7PPG) along with a nice three-point touch (42.1%). Taking this into account, Indiana picked up the second-year man out of Colorado through a two-year, $6.1 million deal. As a hybrid small forward/power forward, he’ll definitely give the Pacers a different look off the bench.