‘Rocket Man’ happy that he’s getting fresh start
Dwight Howard has a new team and catchy new nickname.
Seattle Times news services
HOUSTON — Dwight Howard has a new team and catchy new nickname.
“He’s not Superman anymore. He’s Rocket Man now,” longtime Rockets broadcaster Bill Worrell said Saturday as he introduced the team’s major free-agent acquisition.
As Howard took the stage and greeted several Houston officials including owner Leslie Alexander and coach Kevin McHale, a couple of his new teammates playfully repeated his new moniker — “Rocket Man, Rocket Man” — and were met with a huge, toothy smile from Howard.
“It means a lot to me just to have a fresh start and have an opportunity to write my own story,” Howard said. “I don’t think people understood the fact that I got traded to L.A., and now I had a chance to really choose my own destiny, and this is the place where I chose and I’m happy about it.”
The Rockets gave him a four-year deal worth about $88 million, a year less and far below the $118 million the Lakers could have offered.
The center was formally introduced in Houston on Saturday after spurning the Lakers to sign with the Rockets. He was greeted by some of the brightest stars in team history.
Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon and Yao Ming were among those on hand to celebrate Howard’s signing. Also joining the party were Ralph Sampson, Clyde Drexler and Elvin Hayes.
Howard will be the latest in a storied line of centers to play for the Rockets. He has long worked with Olajuwon to improve his game, and “The Dream” was among the contingent that flew to Los Angeles to woo him into joining the Rockets.
Olajuwon didn’t shy away from raving about his student.
“He is the missing piece where he can really bring the team to a championship contender,” he said.
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.
Howard is perfectly happy dealing with lofty expectations from outsiders because he believes he should control the game every time he sets foot on the court.
“That’s what I’ve always expected out of myself,” he said.
• Boston Celtics rookie power forward Kelly Olynyk, the draft’s 13th overall pick, was one of the surprises of the Orlando Pro Summer League. The 7-footer out of Gonzaga showed a strong midrange jumper and a more refined offensive game than previously advertised. He averaged 18.0 points on 57.8 percent shooting from the field, and he also gathered 7.8 rebounds per game.
• Jeff Teague is still a member of the Atlanta Hawks. The team matched the four-year, $32 million offer sheet the restricted free-agent point guard signed with Milwaukee.
• The San Antonio Spurs re-signed Tiago Splitter after the best season of the Brazilian center’s career. The contract is reportedly worth $36 million over four seasons.
• The Milwaukee Bucks signed free-agent guard O.J. Mayo, hoping he will add some much-needed offensive punch to a roster that is searching for some after a summer of upheaval. The Bucks agreed to terms on a three-year, $24 million contract with Mayo last week.
• The Dallas Mavericks made their biggest free-agent play in a busy offseason, adding shooting guard Monta Ellis. The deal is reportedly for three years and valued between $25 million and $30 million.
• The Philadelphia 76ers acquired the rights to Royce White and Furkan Aldemir from the Houston Rockets for future draft considerations.