Dwight Howard has this thing where he burns through cities and at the end of his stay the city is kind of tired of him and he is tired of them. He gets a huge payday somewhere else while said city he ran from trashes him, talks about how weak he is and how there wasn’t any chemistry and how he whines. He takes it all on. Because when he returns and that first time back in his old stoming ground Howard is a f____ beast. Hall of Fame personified. Best player in the NBA on that night. He did it his first game back in Orlando.
As is the Howard way, there was bad blood and the fans were particularly nasty on March 12, 2013. But Howard just smiled his way through all the feverish Orlando hostility. He went to the free throw line 39 times. He had 39 points and 16 rebounds. He was a +16. He was thoroughly dominant from opening tip to when he took his seat and was serenaded by the locals. He made his point. Miss me?
He was back in L.A. a year later, the first game after the All-Star break. Howard wasn’t the best player on the floor, James Harden was. But Howard was efficient among all the boos raining down upon him. He had 20 points and 13 rebounds. Without Howard (and an injured Kobe Bryant) the Lakers only had 18 wins up to that point and were pretty pathetic with D’Antoni’s no defense allowing the Rockets to score 134 points. But Dwight walked off redeemed. Miss me?
Last night was his first night back in Houston. Even though Orlando and L.A. had moments of bad blood, nothing was like Houston. Howard felt betrayed by ownership. He didn’t get along with James Harden. The coach was fired. Howard admitted to quitting in games because he let his emotions get the better of him. He felt the Rockets went back on their word when they promised him the offense would run through him. In a contest between Harden and Howard, and Clint Capela and Howard, Dwight Howard lost.
So on a Thursday night in February, Howard returned with the Hawks, a good team but not as good as the Rockets have been this year.
Howard must have been shaking his head, wishing he had this pass first James Harden last season. Howard demonstrated why many doubt the Rockets as contenders. Sorry, Clint Capela, you are going to get worked in the playoffs. Dwight Howard owned you.
By far this was Howard’s best outing in his return to the old crib games. He missed two shots. He had 23 rebounds, 5 on the offensive side. He had 3 assists and 2 blocks and 24 points. He played the most minutes out of any Hawk player.
Consider this: The Rockets as a team had 15 more rebounds than Howard did. You can say with pretty good authority that Dwight Howard was a little bit motivated to show up Daryl Morey who didn’t think Howard’s game fit into his analytics data set. Howard came out on fire, ready to punish the Rockets who are thin up front.
What made this even sweeter for Howard is he stole victory from the Rockets who had a double digit lead going into the 4th. Howard said he wasn’t out for revenge but even he couldn’t help but smile at the way the 4th unfolded. It wasn’t Dwight Howard but Tim Hardaway Jr. who put on a clinic and went all Isaiah Thomas in the 4th with 23 points.
Unlike his visits to L.A. and Orlando, Howard wasn’t really booed. The Houston fans seemed to be appreciative of what Howard tried to do there.
“I appreciated my time here. I chose this city in free agency and chose it for a reason. I think Houston is a great place but with the business of basketball, I felt like coming home would be great for my career.”
James Harden had jokes at the end when he said about the Rockets 4th quarter defense, “we didn’t follow our principles.” Like D’Antoni has any. Houston is a terrible defensive team. In their last 5 losses, the other team has scored over 120 points.
On this night Dwight Howard took the high road. And the win.
photo via llananba