Howard has last laugh in first return against Lakers

Thu Feb 20, 2014 1:35pm EST
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By Jahmal Corner

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - As the Houston Rockets pummeled the overmatched Los Angeles Lakers, center Dwight Howard watched and flashed a smile even wider than the gap between his new team and his old one.

Howard faced the Lakers crowd at the Staples Center on Wednesday for the first time since he left LA for Houston as a free agent last summer, and the Laker faithful did their best to sour his return.

They booed at every opportunity, chanted derisively, and wore Howard jerseys from his lone Lakers season that were altered to read "Coward."

But as it turned out, Howard had too many reasons to be happy.

The big man put up 20 points and 13 rebounds as Houston demolished the Lakers 134-108 and a cheerful Howard once again departed Los Angeles on his own terms, leaving the Lakers franchise scrambling in his wake.

"In order to enjoy this game, you have to be free," Howard told reporters about his upbeat attitude during the game.

"I get out there and just want to have as much fun as I can. Basketball is the best job I could ever have. Why not be free when I'm doing it?"

Howard would not say it explicitly, but the bounce in his step and game appears to be a direct result of leaving the Lakers.   Continued...

Feb 15, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; 2014 Western Conference All-Stars center Dwight Howard (Rockets) (12) talks to the media after the practice session at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports - RTX18WKL