The hypersensitive hulk returns to the same court for the first time Monday night to face the
"I'm just happy to be on the floor playing, being a lot healthier than I was last season," Howard told reporters a few days ago. "I'm just full of joy."
Why wouldn't he be? Howard's debut with the
His team is 3-0 instead of 0-3. His body is spry as opposed to hobbled. His coach is safe and not embattled.
Perhaps most important, his status is secure instead of uncertain, that four-year, $88-million contract erasing any wisps of the ominous cloud that followed him throughout his only season as a Laker.
He'll be a Rocket for years to come not just because the team enticed him with its young core and championship aspirations.
"The theme was if he comes here it will be more like one big family," Alexander told the
No doubt about that.
Howard has gone from a fan base that expects championships to one that hasn't abandoned a team with one playoff-series victory in the last 16 seasons.
He's traded the demanding tandem of
He's escaped the shadows of
In other words, Howard can't lose in Houston, even if he loses. He can keep smiling and constantly find someone who will smile back.
The Lakers didn't exactly restrain themselves even before Howard left town, Bryant challenging him during a timeout in Oklahoma City and Nash scrunching his face in disdain after Howard failed to move into position to grab a pass in Miami.
They also didn't feign support for Howard's decision once he left.
Bryant unfollowed him on Twitter. Abdul-Jabbar questioned his basketball IQ on
And they weren't the only derisive ones around the NBA.
Alluding to Howard's decision to spurn his team in free agency,
Howard just kept smiling.
"There's no need to be mad," Howard told reporters Friday after the Rockets beat Cuban's team. "He said what he had to say.… I totally understand. It was business. If I would have went to his team, he would have been happy. If not, he wouldn't have felt like that was the best decision for me. But I have to do what's best for Dwight."
He always does, even if it means holding fans in Orlando and Los Angeles hostage with his indecisiveness.
Howard has tantalized his newest supporters with his early play, taking 26 rebounds in his Rockets debut to match a career high. He has averaged 15 points, a league-high 17 rebounds and has even made half of his free throws, a slight uptick over last season's 49.2%.
So what if Houston has beaten only the middling Mavericks as well as two of the league's worst teams in the
The Lakers should consider themselves spared by the departure of a super-nice man whose cape isn't cut from championship cloth. Here's suggesting they greet his return to Southern California by putting up a few of those old billboards, with one letter strategically added.