After a nightmarish season in Los Angeles marred by injuries and reported feuds, Dwight Howard was ready to move on. And after a dominating debut with the Houston Rockets that saw him match a career-high 26 rebounds in a 96-83 win over the Charlotte Bobcats, Howard is confident that he made the right call.
Finally healthy, Howard looked like his old self Wednesday night, using his strength and athleticism to pull down nearly 30 percent of the game's available rebounds. The Howard-Omer Asik duo had its issues, posting a net rating of -13.8 in 13 minutes of action, per NBA.com's stats page. But while the two struggled on the court together, they did combine for more rebounds total (40) than the Bobcats corralled as a team (37).
Offensively, Howard had his moments, finishing with 17 points on 8-of-14 shooting. The free throws remained a struggle and Howard did turn the ball over four times, but the Rockets generally had quite a bit of success on offense when he was in the game.
Afterward, Howard told Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski that it really hit him how excited he was for the opportunity to play with this group of players right before opening tip:
"When I stood there and looked around, I thought to myself, 'I've got an amazing opportunity here, and I'm not going to let it go to waste," Howard told Yahoo Sports late Wednesday in a quiet corner of the locker room.
"It hit me there: This is what I chose. This is what I decided to do."
While Howard put forth an excellent performance, he wasn't satisfied, saying he was upset he couldn't reach the 30-rebound plateau. The big man also seems to grasp just how good the Rockets can be if everything comes together correctly, and he wants to make sure this chance doesn't "go to waste."
Howard has been roundly criticized in the past for being a guy not serious enough about winning. Whether that's true or not, it seems Howard is ready to win and win big in Houston. A healthy Howard is a dominant force in this league, and paired with another superstar in James Harden, there's certainly loads of winning potential.