When Dwight Howard made the decision to leave the Los Angeles Lakers and sign with the Houston Rockets as a free agent last summer, he was bucking the same league-wide trend that he had followed not long before. The power play he pulled on the Orlando Magic to get to the Los Angeles Lakers in Aug. 2012 was classic NBA star stuff, not all that different from the way players like the Brooklyn Nets' Deron Williams and the New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony went from smaller markets in Denver and Utah, respectively, to bigger ones. But Howard's follow-up chapter – the one where he left approximately $30 million in extra earnings behind in order to pursue rings and happiness in Houston – was an entirely new twist. The question now, of course, is whether he blazed a trail that Anthony and others like him will take in the future. As Anthony ponders the merits of leaving the woeful Knicks (21-36) and all their dysfunctional ways behind in free agency this summer, there's no better blueprint to consider following than the one drafted by Howard. The 10-year veteran made a basketball decision that has benefitted his personal business last summer, signing a four-year maximum contract deal with the Rockets that was the longest permitted by league rules rather than the five-year deal that was both allowed and offered by the Lakers. Seven months later, the Rockets entered Tuesday with a 38-18 record that is an eight-game improvement from this point last season and good for third place in the loaded Western Conference.