"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.
He 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.
Around the Association
Mavericks • Dallas made its biggest free agent play in a busy offseason, adding shooting guard Monta Ellis. Owner Mark Cuban said in an email Saturday that Ellis has agreed to a contract. It is reportedly a three-year deal valued between $25 million and $30 million. The 27-year-old Ellis averaged 19.2 points with Milwaukee last season.
Bucks • Milwaukee 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, but had to wait until Saturday to make the contract official.
Spurs • San Antonio re-signed center Tiago Splitter after the best season of the Brazilian center's career. Terms of the deal announced Saturday weren't released, but the contract is reportedly worth $36 million over four seasons.