What a difference a year makes. Dwight Howard, a.k.a. ‘Superman’ of the Houston Rockets basketball team, made his first road trip back to play the Los Angeles Lakers on February 19. Howard played last season for the Lakers but during the off season signed with the Houston Rockets for $30 million less than the Los Angeles Lakers were offering. Howard was known to be unhappy playing for the Lakers. When he took the Court at Staples Center recently he knew he would be the recipient of a chorus of boos. It didn’t matter as the Rockets thoroughly routed the Lakers 134-108 and Dwight Howard was triumphant in his return to LA.
For Howard’s part he scored 20 points had 13 rebounds. He scored the first six points of the game. Teammate James Harden added 29 points. The Rockets totally dominated in the rebounding category with 56 boards to the Lakers’ 32. On the offensive end of the court the Rockets outrebounded the Lakers 19-3. Houston scored at least 30 points in every quarter, even scoring 40 points in the third quarter. The halftime score was Rockets 64, Lakers 43.
According to the record books it was the worst home loss ever by the Lakers to Houston. With the win the Rockets catapulted to a record of 37-17 while the once proud Lakers continued their downward, out of the playoffs slide to 18-36.
As expected, Howard received a chorus of boos when he came out for warm ups, pregame introductions, and every time he touched the ball when the game began. The jeering lasted well into the fourth quarter but Howard and his teammates seemed to thrive on it rather than let it distract them.
One of the boo birds was Red Hot Chili Peppers and Lakers superfan Flea. Apparently Flea shouted a profanity at Howard who in turn shouted “thank you” in return.
Did Howard make the right decision leaving the storied Lakers franchise and its mega star Kobe Bryant (who is not playing due to injury)? It would appear so. Howard is averaging 18.8 points a game and 12.5 rebounds. The 28-year old all star center is in his ninth year. In addition, the Rockets, coached by ex-Boston Celtic great Kevin McHale, and featuring such players as Harden, Jeremy Lin, and Chandler Parsons, is a bonafide playoff and title contender.
Howard also appears to be much healthier this year. Last year, when he played with the Lakers, he had back problems.
Howard was a Laker during the 2012-2013 time frame after a stellar stint with the Orlando Magic. He had back surgery before the Lakers season and never seemed 100% healthy when playing for Los Angeles. Even when he got healthier, he was said to be unhappy because he didn’t think he received the ball enough and felt that Kobe Bryant shot the ball too much. Nevertheless, the Lakers made a mighty effort to keep him. Golden State, Dallas and Atlanta also made powerful bids to land the 28-year all star center. Signing for $30 million less than the Lakers apparently sent a powerful signal about how he really felt.
The teams meet again on April 8. It’s likely the Houston Rockets will be continuing their upward spiral at that time too and the Lakers will recall Feb. 18 as the day Dwight Howard returned triumphantly to L.A.
By Jim McCullaugh