Dwight Howard Left Los Angeles Lakers in Tatters, and He Seems to Enjoy That

Andy BaileyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2014

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 19: Dwight Howard #12 of the Houston Rockets during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers at STAPLES Center on February 19, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Noah Graham/Getty Images

Everyone has that ex-girlfriend or -boyfriend they secretly want to see, if only to show off just how good they're doing now.

On Wednesday, Dwight Howard got that chance in front of thousands of exes at Staples Center in Los Angeles. His Houston Rockets completely smashed the Lakers, 134-108.

The former L.A. center smiled, laughed and even chanted "Howard sucks!" along the way to 20 points and 13 rebounds against the team he spurned this past summer.

Since then, the two parties—Howard and the Lakers—have moved in drastically (and in the case of Lakers fans, tragically) different directions. 

Howard is averaging 18.8 and 12.5, and the Rockets are now 37-17, good for third in the stacked Western Conference. The Lakers are tied for the worst record in the West.

Remember when L.A. acquired Howard? He and Steve Nash graced a Sports Illustrated cover that read, "Now this is going to be fun." He was supposed to be the heir apparent to Kobe Bryant—the next steward of the great Lakers dynasty.

Instead, Howard repeatedly clashed with Kobe and Mike D'Antoni. And the team that was supposed to be one of the only legitimate challengers to the Miami Heat finished seventh in the West and got shellacked by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round.

Howard was the only youngish building block on the disappointing roster and decided he no longer wanted any part of Lakerland.

Management in L.A. scrambled to pick up the pieces after Howard's decision to leave. They signed a bunch of mid-level players to one-year deals, hoping to preserve future cap space. They agreed with the 35-year-old Bryant on a ludicrous two-year, $48.5 million extension.

And then the hodgepodge team fell apart. Literally. It physically fell apart. On a nightly basis, L.A.'s injury report is as sad as it is long. Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar, Nick Young, Xavier Henry, Jodie Meeks, Gasol and Bryant have all missed time.

And now, in the midst of a lost season, management is trading players away in an effort to get under the luxury-tax line. Blake was shipped off to the Golden State Warriors just before tipoff, via ESPN.com.

There's been so much room on the bench, that in a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Chris Kaman laid down for what appeared to be a mid-game snooze:

So in a season that's been terribly difficult to endure, L.A. fans, who obviously felt jilted, set out to make their feelings on Howard known Wednesday.

He was predictably and relentlessly booed early in the game, but he seemed to feed off the negative energy:

Mere minutes into the game, he showed up Kaman after a big jam like a professional wrestler shortly after hitting his finishing move—pounding his chest and yelling at the fans, the refs and the big man he just shamed:

He even engaged with some of the Lakers' celebrity faithful:

And then the moment that truly summed up the entire spectacle came in the second half. With the game already decided, L.A. fans broke into the "Howard sucks!" chant.

Howard happily joined, and on the very next possession, he jammed what appeared to be months of pent-up frustration, not just through the rim, but down the throats of every bitter Lakers fan. 

They had plenty of fun at Howard's expense, but he got the last laugh. Not just on Wednesday, but perhaps for years.

He's on his way to title contention. They're on their way to rebuilding.


Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.