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Clippers' DeAndre Jordan to face friend Dwight Howard of Houston

Professional BasketballLos Angeles ClippersDeAndre JordanDwight HowardHouston RocketsLos Angeles LakersDoc Rivers

They are close friends, but Clippers center DeAndre Jordan and Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard will be foes Monday night.

They both faced adverse circumstances last season, but Jordan and Howard are in better situations now. Jordan does say it will be a bigger "challenge" for him to deal with the dominating Howard when the Clippers play the Rockets at Staples Center.

When Jordan was asked about his issues last season with former Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro, Jordan paused and chuckled before answering.

Jordan and Del Negro were mostly at odds, leading to Jordan's hardly playing in the fourth quarter of games.

Under new Clippers Coach Doc Rivers, Jordan is playing in the fourth quarter of games and he's been a much better player.

"I learned a few things," he said about last season. "I learned about dealing with people, dealing with things."

Jordan and Howard spoke a lot last season, with Howard voicing his frustrations about his health and playing with the Lakers, the team he bolted from over the summer to join the Rockets.

Howard had back surgery in April 2012 and clearly wasn't the same player after joining the Lakers via trade from the Orlando Magic that summer.

Howard didn't flourish under Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni's system and had difficulties playing with Kobe Bryant.

"He had a tough little stretch last year," Jordan said. "But, he's in a better place now.

"He's definitely moving around a lot better than he was last year. I feel like he slimmed down a lot from last year. You could tell last year he was still a little stiff and his back was giving him problems. But hopefully he'll be back to the 2010-11 Dwight and that'll be better for the league, definitely better for us. It'll be a better matchup. "

Rockets play big

The Rockets have their own version of the Twin Towers, starting the 6-11 Howard and 7-0 Omer Asik in the frontcourt together. And both are listed as centers.

For the Clippers, that means the 6-11 Jordan and 6-10 Blake Griffin will be facing a lot of size.

"They are big and dominant," Rivers said about Howard and Asik. "They are dominant on the glass right now. They clog up the paint. They make it tough to get to the paint. Dwight is being extremely active."

Howard leads the NBA in rebounds (17.0) and Asik is tied for 10th (11.7).

Jordan is tied for sixth (12.0) in rebounds and Griffin tied for 12th (11.3).

"I think it'll be just as much as a challenge for us as it will be for them," Jordan said. "We're definitely going to run them and I'm pretty sure they are going to want to bang, things that we're accustomed to."

broderick.turner@latimes.com

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Professional BasketballLos Angeles ClippersDeAndre JordanDwight HowardHouston RocketsLos Angeles LakersDoc Rivers
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