The mere idea of the best center in the NBA turning down the Los Angeles Lakers to take less money to play in Houston would have been deemed preposterous less than a year ago. This type of thing just wasn't supposed to happen in professional sports.
There's a clear defined pecking order of pro sports franchises and enviable landing spots. Well . . . there was.
For Dwight Howard and Daryl Morey blew those perceptions out of the water on a wild Friday that saw Howard systematically turning down the Atlanta Hawks, the Dallas Mavericks, the Golden State Warriors and then those Lakers, one after another after another, in favor of Houston.
This is a huge win for the Rockets. But it's arguably an even bigger win for Houston as a city. All those lists touting Houston as the coolest and the best city in America are great, but there's no better validation on a hot July day than seeing a 27-year-old superstar in his field pick the Bayou City above all others.
It ensures the Rockets will always be in the conversation. They'll always have the chance to do something special.
And make no mistake, Dwight Howard is still a superstar, still one of the few real difference makers in the NBA. Let's get that out of the way. Any notion that this man child is more trouble than he is worth is absurd.
Howard is still the most dominant center in the NBA today. One injured off year with the Lakers and one impressive playoff series for Roy Hibbert vs. the Miami Heat is not close to enough to change that.
The combination of Howard and James Harden allows the Rockets to legitimately scheme to win championships for years to come. It doesn't mean Houston's the instant favorite. But it ensures the Rockets will always be in the conversation. They'll always have the chance to do something special.
And really, can you ask much more than that in pro sports?
I've never been one of the mindless media pumper uppers of Morey, who argued he could do no wrong simply because he'd always return phone calls and give them something. But there's no denying the enormity of what the Rockets general manager has been able to pull off, completely transforming a franchise from the the Yao Ming injury heartbreaks without ever going through a complete rebuild.
New NBA commissioner Adam Silver should just get it over with already and send the 2013-14 NBA Executive of the Year trophy to the Toyota Center now.
They will be teaching classes about what Daryl Morey's pulled off in the last 18 months with the Rockets in sports business seminars in the near future. And for a guy who loves to hold those type of seminars and advanced stats conferences, there may not be a better compliment.
Morey's Real Bold Stroke
Morey didn't just always work his plan. He always believed too. He's been calling Houston one of the Top 5 cities for NBA players for years now, bringing out the line in every signing press conference at some point or another. You won't find a bigger champion for Houston anywhere than Morey in his own way.
He clearly made Howard believe too.
Sure, Kobe Bryant certainly helped drive Howard away from Los Angeles and that Lakers mystique with arguably the most misguided sales pitch in the history of sales pitches. Kobe will not be getting any coffee any time soon.
Kobe Bryant certainly helped drive Howard away with arguably the most misguided sales pitch in history. Kobe will not be getting any coffee any time soon.
Lecturing at a guy who's clearly sick of being lectured at (just ask Stan Van Gundy how well that approach works), telling Howard that he basically needed the Great Kobe to show him the championship way, is so self destructive that one couldn't help but wonder if it was all a Saturday Night Live skit when news first broke of Kobe's speech.
Kobe only has himself to blame for robbing NBA fans of ever seeing him square off against LeBron James in an NBA Finals. Bryant's days and the Lakers run are all but done now. LeBron is never going to LA. And you have to wonder what true superstar ever will anytime soon now.
Dwight Howard's snub of Kobe Bryant and the Lakers could not be any more complete or emphatic if he ran down the streets of his Aspen hideaway, screaming, "Hah, hah suckers!" Sure, he's reportedly been as classy as possible in saying no thanks to his other suitors with personal phone calls, but that can't hide the sting or the harsh truth for the one true loser.
That's a worry for another city though. This is Morey and Houston's day. Dwight Howard just shattered the backboard on old, tired city conventions.
Isn't it a great new world we live in?