HOUSTON — Last offseason, the Houston Rockets were an afterthought, a young team with little star power.
Now, after trading for James Harden just before this past season and adding Dwight Howard on Friday, Houston is suddenly primed to contend sooner than almost anybody expected.
Still, Houston general manager Daryl Morey knows nabbing Howard is only the first step in a long process for his team.
“We haven’t accomplished anything yet, but we’re putting something pretty cool together, I think,” Morey said in an interview with Comcast SportsNet Houston.
Howard is the Rockets’ latest superstar center, following Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon and eight-time All-Star Yao Ming.
They reached the playoffs for the first time since 2009 this season and battled back from a 3-0 deficit before being eliminated by the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 6.
Their return to the postseason showed they have plenty of speed and long-range scoring power with Harden, Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons. Omer Asik was a solid rebounder in the playoff run and averaged 12.3 points in the series, but it was clear that the team needed a more potent scoring threat inside.
The addition of Howard gives them just that, as the 6-foot-11 star has averaged more than 18 points and almost 13 rebounds in his nine-year career.
His one season in Los Angeles was filled with unrest, including what many believed to be a less than positive relationship with Kobe Bryant. Bryant unfollowed Howard on Twitter on Friday night after he announced his decision to join the Rockets with a tweet.
The Atlanta Hawks have agreed to contracts with free-agent forwards Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll, continuing their makeover under general manager Danny Ferry.
Two people close to the negotiations confirmed the deals for Millsap and Carroll, who were teammates on the Utah Jazz last season. The people spoke to The Associated Press on Saturday on condition of anonymity because contracts cannot become official until Wednesday when the NBA’s free agency moratorium ends.
The deals for Millsap and Carroll were struck late Friday night, after free agent Dwight Howard informed the Hawks he was going to go elsewhere. Howard later went to Twitter to announce he was headed to the Houston Rockets.
Millsap was selected by Utah in the second round of the 2006 draft. The 6-foot-8 power forward has career averages of 12.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists in seven seasons in the NBA.
Although he was Utah’s longest-tenured player, Millsap’s minutes declined last season with the emergence of young players Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter —both part of a core group for the Jazz.
The Josh Smith era in Atlanta is over.
The Hawks forward has reportedly agreed to a four-year, $56 million contract with the Pistons according to WSB.
Smith played all nine seasons with his hometown Hawks, who selected him with the No. 17 overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft. He is ranked in the top 10 in most of the Hawks’ all-time statistical categories, including games, points and rebounds.
Smith could have received a maximum deal of five years and $94 million from the Hawks. The unrestricted free agent could have signed with another team for a maximum of four years and $70 million.
The Pistons pushed hard for Smith, meeting with him and his agent one minute into the start of the NBA’s free-agency period on July 1. Smith can not sign the deal until Wednesday.
A person close to the negotiations says that the Portland Trail Blazers have agreed to a contract with free agent small forward Dorell Wright, who played last season with the Philadelphia 76ers.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal cannot be formalized until Wednesday under NBA rules.
Wright, a nine-year NBA veteran, averaged 9.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists off the bench for the Sixers last season. He was traded to Philadelphia from Golden State last July.
Carl Landry believes his second stint with the Sacramento Kings will be better — and last longer — than his first time around.
With an aggressive new regime in place, Landry and the Kings agreed to a four-year deal worth at least $26 million on Saturday that will bring the power forward back to California’s capital city.
Landry’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, said that final details of the contract were still being worked out and it could reach $27 million over the life of the deal. He said Landry is excited to return to Sacramento under new owner Vivek Ranadive, who bought the franchise from the Maloof family in May.
Teams must wait until July 10 to announce any moves during the NBA’s free agency period.
Landry played parts of the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons with the Kings.