|Dwight Howard. Reuters
Dwight Howard's move from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Rockets was not officially rubber stamped by Houston on Wednesday, though a flood of completed deals were confirmed with the NBA lifting its moratorium on new business.
On what is generally known as "signing day" some of the league's biggest names changed uniforms as the league set its salary cap for the coming season at $58.67 million.
The occasion, however, was anti-climatic with most of the deals completed days earlier and only the formality of signing on the dotted line remaining.
Andrea Bargnani, Andre Iguodala and Josh Smith were among the high-profile names finding new homes while All-Star point guard Chris Paul re-signed with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Paul was quick to get his name on a new five-year, $107-million contract, officially inking his deal one minute after the moratorium was lifted at midnight.
Center Andrew Bynum agreed to sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers for a two-year, $24-million deal, it was reported by the NBA on Wednesday.
Bynum had been traded from the Lakers to Philadelphia last season but failed to play one game for the 76ers because of knee issues.
Howard, a seven-time All-Star center, was the prize free agent on the market and attracted the attention of several suitors before settling on Houston.
Even though the Rockets remained quiet on Wednesday, Howard's signing was all but confirmed a day earlier when the league fined Houston $150,000 for prematurely commenting about their new acquisition.
The Lakers also confirmed they had lost the battle to retain the 27-year-old, who moved to Los Angeles from the Orlando Magic in a blockbuster 12-player trade less than a year ago.
Howard, who had also been courted by the Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors, favored the move to Houston despite the prospect of a substantial paycut.
A three-time NBA defensive player of the year, popularly known as "Superman" for his athletic prowess, Howard would have been eligible to sign for five years and $118 million with Los Angeles or four years and $88 million with any other team.
The prospect of being the kingpin on an ambitious Rockets team which will also include James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin and promising center Omer Asik was always likely to be an alluring one for Howard.
His arrival in Houston makes the Rockets genuine contenders for the Western Conference championship.
Smith to Detroit
The Lakers moved quickly to fill the void left by Howard, reaching an agreement with free agent center Chris Kaman on a one-year deal worth approximately $3.2 million.
The 31-year-old Kaman has career averages of 11.8 points and eight rebounds and just completed a one-year contract with the Dallas Mavericks.
Houston was also believed to be Smith's destination but instead the Atlanta Hawks free agent forward opted for a four-year, $54 million deal with the Detroit Pistons.
Taken in the first round of the 2004 draft by the Hawks, Smith spent nine seasons in Atlanta, where he averaged 15.3 points and 8.0 rebounds a game.
The Golden State Warriors were also in the hunt for Howard but after that failed to secure him, they turned their attention to Iguodala, acquiring the guard/forward from the Denver Nuggets in a three-team trade on a four-year, $48-million deal.
Taken with the ninth overall selection by Philadelphia in the 2004 draft, Iguodala spent his first eight seasons with the 76ers before being traded to the Nuggets last year.
Iguodala owns career averages of 15.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.9 assists over nine NBA seasons.
The Toronto Raptors confirmed a swap with the New York Knicks by shipping the enigmatic Bargnani, the number one overall pick in 2006 draft, to Broadway for a package of players and draft picks.
The seven-foot Bargnani averaged 15.2 points and 4.8 rebounds over seven seasons as a Raptor but never lived up to expectations in Toronto.
In exchange for the sweet-shooting Italian, the Raptors received center Marcus Camby, forwards Steve Novak and Quentin Richardson, a 2016 first-round draft pick and two second-round draft picks (2014 and 2017).
"We collectively decided that a fresh start for both parties was the best way to move forward," Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri said in a statement on the team's website.