Having spurned the Los Angeles Lakers and now prepared to sign with the Houston Rockets, Dwight Howard opened up to the press about his decision. Howard claims that Kobe Bryant had nothing to do with his choice to leave  – despite KB’s very large role in the Lakers’ recruitment process of the NBA’s most coveted free agent, and his icy reaction to the departure — but did reveal that he asked the team to hire Phil Jackson (who tried and failed to lure him back to Hollywood.) Per Hoopsworld: “Why did you select the Rockets over the other four teams you met with? Dwight Howard: ‘I felt like Houston was the best fit for me. I felt that James and I would really have an opportunity to grow together. I felt like having a coach like Kevin McHale and having Hakeem Olajuwon, who’s in Houston, can really help me grow as a player – help me as a post player and help my overall game. It was very appealing. I felt like this was a great opportunity for me to start fresh. I’m just looking forward to this opportunity.’ [...] Was it tough walking away from a franchise like the Lakers? They really haven’t lost a marquee free agent before. DH: ‘Very tough. Very, very, very tough. Very, very tough. People wouldn’t understand. Walking away from them and walking away from $30 million. That shows you right there that I want to win. I want to win. Nothing else matters other than winning. I don’t think anybody would’ve ever walked away from $30 million, but I want to win. But yeah, just walking away was tough. I was walking away from six million fans. I was walking away from a storied franchise. All of that makes it tough and it makes it a really, really big risk. I learned a lot from the situation in Orlando though, when I was afraid to walk away because I didn’t want to hurt people. I was afraid to leave because everything seemed like it was great. But now, I’m doing what’s best for Dwight. People are going to be mad and upset either way, so I’d rather be happy. I want to be happy playing basketball rather than upset doing what everyone wants me to do.’ What did you think of Kobe Bryant’s comments that he could teach you how to be a winner? DH: ‘He didn’t say anything of that sort. People twisted a lot of stuff that he said. But in my personal opinion, I’m a winner. I’m a winner because I’ve been playing for nine years when the average career for an NBA player is three years. I’m a winner because I made it to the NBA from a small school in Atlanta, GA, with 16 people in a class. I’m a winner because I’m succeeding in life. I’ve had problems and I’m not better than the next man, but I’m going to push myself to be a winner when it comes to winning a championship. But he didn’t say anything like that and a lot of people twisted what he did say.’ If Phil Jackson had been more involved with the Lakers or coaching the team, would that have affected your decision? DH: ‘Well, I asked to have him as my coach earlier in the year. (pause) The best decision for me was to do what’s best for Dwight. I think this is the best thing for me. This wasn’t a decision about anybody else. I didn’t have anybody pushing me to do anything. This is what Dwight wanted.’”