Howard 'Betting $30 Million' on Rockets, Move Had 'Nothing to Do' with Kobe

Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 6, 2013

Feb 24, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA;  Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) speaks with center Dwight Howard (12) during the game against the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Dwight Howard agreed to sign with the Houston Rockets for a number of reasons, but he'd also like the world to know that his year-long spat with Kobe Bryant wasn't a factor in his decision.

According to Dave McMenamin of ESPN, Howard is putting his money where his mouth is—at least in terms of his faith in the Rockets' title hopes. Remember, the Los Angeles Lakers could have paid Howard upward of $118 million to stay.

Instead, he'll take $88 million over four years from the Rockets:

And he also made a point to clarify that he didn't leave L.A. because of anything Bryant said or did during his time there.

Howard is saying all of the right things in the aftermath of a turbulent few days, but he can't credibly argue that his repeated clashes with Bryant had nothing to do with his decision to move on from the Lakers.

Bryant's alpha-dog mentality never meshed with Howard's more relaxed demeanor, and whether the pair were beefing over primacy in the locker room or toughness, there was always something driving a wedge between them.

So D12 can claim that he's excited about playing alongside James Harden all he wants, but it must also be true that he's just as fired up about not having to endure another season with Bryant.

To be fair, Bryant probably feels the same way.

And it's going to take some time to see how Howard's $30 million bet on the Rockets winning an NBA championship turns out. There are plenty of unforeseeable factors that could crop up to prevent Houston from grabbing its first Larry O'Brien Trophy since Hakeem Olajuwon was dream-shaking in 1994-95.

But one thing does seem certain: The Rockets give Howard a far better chance to collect a ring in the near future than the Lakers do.

L.A. is almost certainly in for a rough year in 2013-14, with Bryant recovering from an Achilles injury and a pitiful crop of role players surrounding Pau Gasol and Steve Nash. Things were ugly for the Lakers last year, and there's absolutely no reason to believe they'll be any prettier now that Howard's gone.

Houston, on the other hand, has a blindingly bright future.

If Howard can avoid the embarrassing immaturity and unwillingness to accept direction that derailed his tenures in Orlando and Los Angeles, he'll give the Rockets a fighting chance to become a championship-caliber club.

Because D12 has spent the past couple of seasons in the headlines for all of the wrong reasons, it's certainly not a sure bet that he'll propel the Rockets to new heights.

But apparently, Howard's a gambling man.