It felt surreal seeing him in the lockerroom, standing alone, long after we had all moved on with our cameras. This man had been the object of the team’s desire for years. Now he was here, in the flesh. He was quiet, unlike how I remembered him during his trips here when with the Lakers. Perhaps that was due to a newfound maturity and focus; more likelier, he just didn’t know any of us that well. He took a pair of sweatpants and with some scissors, cut them into long shorts before putting them on. He took his time, standing at his locker, gathering some items into a bag. I realized that it hadn’t yet hit me, until I was hobbling just a few feet in front of him on my crutch, that Dwight Howard was actually a Houston Rocket. Does this guy realize how much we wrote about him? Prayed he chose us? He was here. The final piece.
Howard was introduced last in the introductions to the roar of the locals. Just the mere projection of his face on the screen sent those in attendance into a frenzy. He finished with 19 points and 9 rebounds, blowing around overmatched Pelicans defenders when in single coverage. He also added a block, skying above to goal-tend a few others. It was a successful debut and everyone went home happy.
The Rockets worked the ball to Howard in the post, early and often, in one time frame visiting him on four consecutive trips. On one play, he set a pick for Harden and then rolled to the post to catch the Harden pass with his back to the basket; on another, he found Harden in the corner for an open ‘3’. Somewhere, Daryl Morey smiled.
(my apologies for the poor video quality – the light from the camera in front of me ruined this shot.)
Harden was as efficient as ever, making things look effortless. Watching Howard being introduced though, made me think back fondly to Harden’s home debut. The first time is always the best. He wanted to come here when we had nothing. That should not be forgotten.