Houston Rockets announce Dwight Howard as newest team member

Dwight Howard speaks outside Toyota Center in Houston on Saturday, July 13, 2013. The Houston Rockets hosted a Red Rally downtown where fans braved the heat to welcome Howard to the team and to the city.
July 13, 2013 8:46:58 PM PDT
It took some time to get all the deals ironed out to free up that cap space needed, but Dwight Howard was officially introduced as a Houston Rocket on Saturday. And Houston threw a party to welcome him.

Howard signed his four-year, $88 million deal -- a year less and far below the $118 million the Lakers could have offered -- and let us all know that winning a championship is the goal for next season.

He is the next link in the Rockets' long history of standout big men -- Hakeem Olajuwon, Elvin Hayes, Ralph Sampson, Clyde Drexler and Yao Ming all joined Howard at Saturday's press conference and rally. Howard is ready to live up to their legacy.

The culmination of rumors and anticipation and the official signing of Howard made the 100-degree heat in Houston not just bearable, but fun.

Fans are buying in on the Rockets' chances of a championship.

They stood in the heat and waited longer than expected, but when Howard was introduced at the outside rally, fans were quick to say that the Rockets are back.

"I was this small when I was a fan. Man, I am so happy right now. We're going to get a ring; we're going to get a belt; we're going to get everything," fan Livan Rodriguez said. "I am excited."

"Today is a big day in Rocket Nation, because with Dwight Howard, we have that dominant center," fan Steve Rose said.

"It means it's the beginning of a new era for the Rockets," fan Maya Jones said. "We are in the building phases of a new era."

And talk about commitment: one Rockets fan drove hours overnight to be there for the rally.

"I came from Atlanta, literally. I made a pact that said if Dwight Howard came, I was going to do something crazy," Alex Chea said. "So after work, 4:30-5pm, I was like, 'I got to go.' I wanted to see Hakeem; I haven't seen him since I was a little baby."

As much as today was about what the Rockets gained, it was also about what the Los Angeles Lakers lost.

"Dwight Howard just came from the Lakers," one fan said. "We are Laker Haters; it's rivalry. We're going to the championship because we got Dwight Howard."

"We got Dwight. Dwight!" one young fan exclaimed. "Dwight Howard is the best. Dwight Howard is the best center in the league. Shaq, I want to say one thing to you, Shaq. Don't ever disrespect Houston like that again. H-town, baby!"

After Howard spoke at the rally, the fans yelled in, "beat the Heat" in reference to NBA champs the Miami Heat.

Howard followed, "Yeah, it's hot outside. Beat this heat!"

Howard joins a team starring James Harden that reached the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and battled back from a 3-0 deficit before being eliminated by the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 6.

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