Houston Rockets Introduce Dwight Howard

Rockets GM says Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik will stay in Houston

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The Rockets introduced Dwight Howard on Saturday, and while the free agent big man promised he’d keep on smiling on his way to trying to help his new team win a title, he’s also got some work to do to keep his teammates similarly engaged.

Throughout the process, there had been rumblings in Houston that even after securing Howard’s services, the Rockets may not be done tinkering with the roster.

The team was said to be working to trade Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, not necessarily due to their skill sets not being a match to play alongside Howard, but because their contracts don’t allow for a great deal of flexibility under the league’s new collective bargaining agreement.

At the introductory press conference for Howard, however, Rockets GM Daryl Morey said that for now he’s going to keep things as is from a roster standpoint.

“The reality is James (Harden) and Dwight (Howard) want to play with Jeremy and Omer,” Morey said, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle “I’ve been kicked down to assistant GM. They’re going to be here.”

Asik was the one that wanted to leave once he heard the initial report that Howard was on his way, likely due to feeling as though he’d be relegated to a reduced role with what Howard can provide on both ends of the floor. Howard seemed sensitive to this, and is going to do his best to try to make his new teammate feel as though he’s an important part of the plan.

“Omer might not really see the total big picture right now, and I totally understand,” Howard said, also via the Houston Chronicle. “He’s a young guy and he wants to really be respected. I would tell him when I see him, ‘You’ve done a great job on this team. I’m going to help you and this team get better.’ He’s a big piece to us winning a championship if we’re going to make that run.”

It’s early, but the new setting in Houston is already having a positive affect on Howard, at least in terms of his ability to understand his role, the situation, and what’s going on around him. It’s a huge shift from the tone-deaf version of Howard we’ve seen for the better part of the last two seasons.

“I’m going to do whatever I can to make those guys’ lives better,” Howard said. “I realize how much they mean to this team.”

Aaron Gordon both legs over the mascot, ball-under-the-legs dunk (VIDEO)

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TORONTO — Zach LaVine won the NBA All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest, but in an epic night for my money this was the single best dunk.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon broke ground with this one — guys have jumped over mascots and other players before (and a Kia hood), but by splitting their legs apart. Gordon just put both legs over Stuff (that’s the mascot’s name, Stuff the Magic Dragon, I don’t make this up) — and took the ball off the mascot’s head, went under his legs, and threw it down.

Insane.

Gordon deserved a trophy for his performance in this dunk contest.

Zach LaVine edges Aaron Gordon in epic, insane Dunk Contest

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TORONTO — That. Was. Amazing.

In a dunk contest that will go down with the all-time greats — Jordan vs. Dominique, Dr. J from the free throw line — Minnesota’s Zach LaVine defended his dunk contest title. Barely. Because Orlando’s Aaron Gordon was doing dunks nobody had ever seen before.

And LaVine was bringing it just as hard.

The two men advanced to the finals — dismissing Will Barton and Andre Drummond, each of whom had good dunks — and that was when it got wild.

There were four second-round dunks, and four perfect scores of 50. (That was in spite of Shaq, who wanted to give nines for second attempts.)

“I was prepared for four (second round dunks),” LaVine said. “To tell the truth, he came with something that no one else has done. He did two dunks that were just crazy with the mascots, jumping over them. We just kept pushing each other until the last dunk. I’ve got to give it up to my boy Will “The Thrill” Barton. It’s because of him I think I won. Because he said try to go from the free-throw line. I’d never done that before, and I just tried it. So I guess it was a great dunk. I think it was the best one ever.”

The Air Canada Centre crowd was exploding with every dunk. The two men went to a dunk-off — and got two more 50s.

“If I knew it was going to be like that, I would have prepared better and we would have been here dunking all night, going back 50 after 50 after 50 after 50,” Gordon said. “We would have been here all night. I didn’t know it was going to be like that. I was just hoping Zach was going to miss, and it wasn’t going to happen. You could see as my facial expressions when Zach dunks it, it’s like okay, that’s a 50. Like I know we’re going to have to dunk again.”

So they went to a second-round of overtime, where LaVine put up another 50 and won the contest.

Gordon was close to perfect.

Zach LaVine can flat-out fly.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon with the over-the-mascot mad dunk

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TORONTO — Aaron Gordon was giving Zach LaVine all he could handle in the Dunk Contest.

He blew the lid off the Air Canada Centre with this dunk in the first round — and it wasn’t even his best dunk of the night. Never seen this before.

This dunk contest was awesome, so much more video to come.

Zach LaVine opens Slam Dunk Contest title defense with spectacular behind-the-back slam (VIDEO)

during the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge 2016 at Air Canada Centre on February 12, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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TORONTO — Zach LaVine clearly heard all the talk that Aaron Gordon or Will Barton had a chance to upset him in the Slam Dunk Contest. He came out ready to prove his superiority right off the bat. This behind-the-back slam was his first attempt of the night:

Even better was the reaction, both from Andre Drummond and from LaVine’s Minnesota teammates: