There was good reason for pessimism among the Los Angeles Lakers and their fans. Dwight Howard has apparently chosen to sign with the Houston Rockets — though the big fella’s agent stresses that nothing has been finalized as of yet, the free agent center is expected to make it official tonight or tomorrow. The Rockets’ front-office is cautiously optimistic. Per USA Today and Yahoo! Sports: “After 20 months of twists and turns in the Dwight Howard saga, a person with knowledge of his decision said he will join the Houston Rockets. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because his decision had not yet been announced. After being traded from the Orlando Magic to the Los Angeles Lakers in a four-team deal a year ago, Howard entered the summer unsure of what he might do because of the awful Lakers season that had unfolded. His partnership with Kobe Bryant never went as planned, nor did his recovery from back surgery in April 2012 that hindered his play for most of the season. The five-team race between the Rockets, Lakers, Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks included lengthy meetings with each team in Los Angeles this week that not only would determine his final destination but also slow a free agency period that should speed up now that his decision is known. [...] ‘He hopes to finalize his decision [Friday night] or [Saturday] morning,’ Howard’s agent, Dan Fegan said. Howard is eligible for a four-year, $88 million maximum deal from the Rockets unless they negotiate a sign-and-trade deal with the Lakers. His final hesitancy centered on leaving a fifth guaranteed year and $30 million – which the Lakers can give him – on the negotiating table, sources said. [...] In addition to the Rockets and Lakers, Howard seriously considered the Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors. He informed the Mavs and Warriors earlier Friday that they were no longer in the running.”