According to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, the Rockets pitched Howard on just about everything. General manager Daryl Morey, owner Les Alexander, stars James Harden and Chandler Parsons and Houston greats Yao Ming and Hakeem Olajuwon all did their part to ensure Howard left the meeting ready to sign on the dotted line.
No signatures were given, though. They can't be. Howard cannot sign anywhere until July 10, and the Rockets aren't his last meeting. They weren't even his first. Mitch Kupchak got to Howard before anybody else, and he, along with Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, among others, will get to him last as well.
To put it simply, this isn't over. Or even close to it.
Before Howard can render what is considered a quick decision, he'll be pitched extensively by a foray of suitors. Everyone, including the Lakers, will get up on their soapboxes and pontificate at great length over why their team is the best fit.
Houston has already had its opportunity, and by all accounts, it went well. That is, we have to assume it went well since the Rockets were so emboldened leading into their meet-and-greet with the big man that they put Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik on the trade block, according to Ken Berger of CBS Sports.
Hell yes, that's arrogant. But haughtiness sells this time of year.
Players want to sign with teams who provide assurances, however impulsive they are at a given moment. They want to play for franchises with a plan, a championship blueprint worth investing their time and talents in.
The Rockets have one, a great one. So do the Lakers, and theirs just might be even better.
Woj writes that the Rockets (Hakeem specifically) attempted to persuade him by pointing to their penchant for winning.
Presumably, that comprised of Olajuwon taking his two championship rings and shoving them in Howard's face.
Those titles were won consecutively, in 1994 and 1995. The Dream and the rest of the Rockets' recruiting contingent could have pointed to them in hopes of making Howard realize they were on the cusp of building a dynasty once. With him, they could get back there again, winning another two or three or more titles.
All that's good and well, but that's the last time the Rockets won, in 1995. Since then, they've made it out of the second round of playoffs once (1997) and have reached the second round just once in the last 16 years.
The Lakers last won a title in 2010, and they've won five since the Rockets took home their last Larry O'Brien Trophy.
No matter how far they've seemed prepared to fall, the Lakers have always landed on their feet. Always, always, always.
Forget about Mike D'Antoni, Kobe, next season and even right this minute. Howard doesn't need to live in the present exclusively to make a decision.
Not when the past suggests that the Lakers will rebound from their 2012-13 campaign, that they will continue to win at all costs.
The Here and Now
Past precedence can only hold so much influence.
Saying that the Lakers are going to win because that's what they've always done isn't enough. There needs to something to play for now.
If Howard joins the Rockets, he and James Harden would immediately form one of the best 1-2 punches in the NBA. Houston would become an instant contender and Dwight's smile would remain intact.
Somehow, we're supposed to believe that's more than what the Lakers can currently offer, like they're destined to dwell in the doldrums forever.
Think about what I just said. Using the words "doldrums" and "Lakers" has become far too common a practice since Los Angeles finished seventh in the Western Conference this season. One disappointing campaign has been used as a means to unravel all that these Lakers are still capable of.
Injuries to everyone crippled their dynamic. Kobe wasn't healthy, Nash wasn't healthy, Pau Gasol sure as hell wasn't healthy and Dwight has never been less healthy. The Lakers barely made the playoffs, and that was considered a failure.
Those standards aren't going anywhere next season. Los Angeles will be expected to contend with Howard as currently constructed. Because it can.
Sure, Kobe is coming back from a ruptured Achilles and Nash and Gasol are working their ways back from afflicted crusades themselves, but the Lakers can still play for a championship next year (with Howard).
Like Berger notes, the Rockets plan on moving Asik and Lin, and they just might. Looking at the rosters now, and envisioning how they would compare if no moves are made, the Lakers have the edge.
Howard can't solely bank on the Rockets making moves to put a different roster around him right away. Next season has to be taken into account. With Kobe, Pau (if the Lakers don't amnesty him) and Nash by his side, Howard can help lead the Lakers toward contention.
As is, Howard could help carry the Lakers much further than he may go with the Rockets next season.
Current infrastructures and past success combined still aren't enough. Just as we alluded to earlier, there needs to be a concrete plan in place for the future.
The Lakers can offer that, too.
Assuming Howard re-signs, Los Angeles will have close to or even more than $30 million annually to play around with in the summer of 2014. That's the same summer LeBron James is scheduled to hit the open market again. Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and a swarm of other superstars are set to join him, any one or two of which the Lakers can chase.
Nash is the only other contract the Lakers have on the books leading into that offseason. Both Kobe and Gasol become free agents, at which point either could be had at a steep discount.
Houston can't guarantee it can offer such flexibility.
The Rockets may be hell-bent on moving Lin and Asik, and freeing up some cap space both now and later, but what if they can't? Asik should be easy to move; the same cannot be said for Lin. Houston isn't a lock to turn either of those two into a current star or future cap space either. Disappointing contracts may need to be taken back to facilitate any deal.
Or everything could go according to plan. We don't know. Nor do we know if the Lakers will definitely sign another superstar or two. But we do know that they'll have the opportunity to surround Dwight with more than one.
Tinseltown's future financial flexibility isn't a theory; it's a fact. A future reality. One could then even make the case that landing the free agents of their choosing falls under the same category.
Players don't abandon the Lakers the way Howard might. They flock to Hollywood to win a title. One-way tickets won't be able to be purchased fast enough in 2014 if Dwight has already boarded the bandwagon.
Superman will have started something. Yes, he'll have followed in Kobe's footsteps, but the Black Mamba isn't the future. If Dwight re-signs, he would be. All the Lakers have to offer—the history, the lavish lifestyle, the glory—would be Howard's for the taking.
He would be the head of a team, just like ESPN.com's Chris Broussard posits he wants to be. Not just any team, a potential superteam (free agency permitting).
That's an opportunity he'll never have in Houston. A powerhouse could be formed, but it will never be Howard's. Harden isn't going anywhere and the Rockets are his team. The Lakers are Kobe's—for now.
At some point, the torch will have to be passed, Kobe will need to retire or willingly cede control of the organization to someone. That someone can still be Howard.
Provided he signs on the dotted line the Lakers put in front of him—the one that offers him one year and tens of millions of dollars more than Houston's will—Los Angeles can be his and eventually his alone. The sooner he understands that, the sooner he'll be able to make his decision.
The sooner he'll be able to start chasing championships and perhaps a dynasty with the Lakers.
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