The Atlanta Hawks center had to be physically restrained from a fan who called him a "bitch" after the Lakers' 109-94 win. TMZ Sports captured video of the incident, in which Howard challenged the fan to "come back [to the tunnel] and say it":
Howard scored 19 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked two shots as Atlanta lost for the fifth time in six games. This was the Hawks' only trip to play the Lakers this season, and fans jeered him throughout—a clear sign they're still not over his unceremonious departure three-plus years later.
The Lakers acquired Howard during the 2012 offseason, a deal that coincided with the acquisition of Steve Nash and seemingly made the team title favorites. The Lakers instead fractured internally on their way to finishing as the West's No. 7 seed. Howard and Kobe Bryant feuded throughout their brief stint as teammates, and Nash's Lakers career never got off the ground because of injuries.
That year ended with Bryant on the sidelines with a ruptured Achilles and Howard's getting ejected as the San Antonio Spurs completed a four-game first-round sweep of the supposed superteam. Howard subsequently signed with the Houston Rockets, where he spent the past three seasons before going to Atlanta this summer.
He spoke to ESPN.com's Jackie MacMullan about his time in L.A. earlier this year:
I just felt like it wasn't a team. I wanted a team. There were things that went on during the season that made me feel like I wasn't a part of it, like the thing with Kobe and my shoulder. People were saying, "Dwight's so strong, he's Superman, he should play through it." It was a torn labrum. I should have had surgery, but I didn't. I came back instead.
Howard has left each of his three previous NBA stops (Orlando, Los Angeles and Houston) under tense circumstances, so it's hard to say he was blameless in those situations. But being relentlessly heckled for a situation that happened four seasons ago has to weigh on his shoulders.
The matter did not escalate past what is shown on video, so it's unlikely the NBA intervenes in a meaningful way. That said, it's likely Howard is more than happy to get his one visit to Lakers territory out of the way.
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