Dwight Howard never grew comfortable playing with Kobe Bryant and for Mike D'Antoni.
Once a wide-smiling, fun-loving big guy, Howard lacked that joy in Los Angeles.
The Rockets are confident he'll find it again in Houston.
"We're going to get a smile back on his face that hasn't been on it for a couple of years because of various things, injury and maybe the team situation he was in at the time," general manager Daryl Morey told Comcast SportsNet Houston. "He's going to have a smile back on his face."
The Rockets were the ones beaming Friday, thanks to Howard's choice to take less money in hopes of more happiness.
"I've decided to become a member of the Houston Rockets. I feel (it's) the best place for me and I am excited about joining the Rockets and I'm looking forward to a great season," Howard wrote on Twitter.
He leaves behind an extra $30 million and an offense under D'Antoni that he was never fully pleased with, joining a Rockets team that could become an immediate contender in the Western Conference with the All-Star center in the middle.
"Years of work by Dwight & Rockets went into this. This team is going to be special," Morey tweeted.
USA Today first reported earlier Friday that Howard would join the Rockets, where he will team with All-Star James Harden to give the Rockets a potentially potent inside-outside combination.
That didn't quite end the Howard saga, which has dragged on a couple of years. Howard spoke again with the Lakers amid reports he was changing his mind.
Turns out, he was just saying goodbye.
"We have been informed of Dwight's decision to not return to the Lakers," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. "Naturally we're disappointed. However, we will now move forward in a different direction with the future of the franchise and, as always, will do our best to build the best team possible, one our great Lakers fans will be proud to support.
"To Dwight, we thank him for his time and consideration, and for his efforts with us last season. We wish him the best of luck on the remainder of his NBA career."
Dallas, Golden State and Atlanta were the other suitors interested in Howard.
But it was the Rockets, who brought Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon with them when they made their pitch to Howard on Monday, who beat out the other teams.
And now Howard will follow the likes of Olajuwon and Yao Ming in Houston's middle.
The deal can't become official until July 10, after next season's salary cap has been set. The Rockets can give him a four-year deal worth about $88 million, a year less and far below the $118 million the Lakers could have offered.
The Lakers acquired Howard last August from Orlando as part of a four-way trade that also included Philadelphia and Denver.