(LOS ANGELES) — After a year of speculation and rumors, Dwight Howard finally has a new home in Los Angeles with the Lakers. The Magic sent Howard to Hollywood on Thursday night in a four-team 12-player trade that ended the saga.
Howard was introduced to the Lakers on Friday.
“I’m so blessed to be able to step on the court again, it means a lot to me,” said Howard who is recovering from back surgery. “Just happy to be back.”
After eight seasons in Orlando, the three-time defensive player of the year will have a chance to be a part of a franchise who has become instant title contenders with the addition of Steve Nash and himself.
“I just want to thank the city of Orlando and all the fans in Orlando for eight great years, you guys were the best,” said Howard. “I’ve had some great memories.”
“I’m just finally glad it’s over with, myself and the Magic organization, we can all start over and begin a new career,” the six-time All Star added. “Today is a fresh new start for all of us and I’m happy it’s finally over, I’m happy to be here officially.”
The Lakers’ payroll will push or exceed $100 million in each of the next two seasons if they are able to sign to a max extension with Howard.
“Everybody is going to expect a lot of us and I know for myself that I’m going to give you guys 100 percent” said Howard. “I’m just looking forward to getting back on the court again.”
As for his new teammate, five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant says that he’d be more than happy to pass the torch to Howard once his playing days are over.
“I’ll probably play two, three more years. Then the team is his,” Bryant said after the U.S. beat Argentina, 109-83, in an Olympic men’s basketball semifinal Friday. “I’m excited for the Laker franchise because they have a player that can carry the franchise well after I’m gone.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Madison Park, Keith Allen and Andreas Preuss, CNN