Dwight Howard returns to the Staples Center on Monday, but not to take on his former team the LA Lakers, where he spent such a difficult season with, but the Clippers.
The Houston Rockets have started the season well, picking up three wins in three to remain unbeaten in the NBA. Against the Clippers, all eyes will again be focused on Howard, who has taken to life as a Rocket pretty well.
"He's definitely moving around a lot better than he was last year," Clippers' De Andre Jordan told the club's official website. "I feel like he slimmed down a lot. I was watching a couple of their games and you can just tell that last year was still a little stiff and his back was giving him some problems. Hopefully, he'll be back to the 2010-2011 Dwight and that will be better for the league."
Howard is averaging 15.0 points, 17.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game for Houston so far this season, and had a pretty decent 19.3 ppg average against the Clippers late year.
The Rockets were not too impressive in their opening win over Charlotte, but have looked good against Dallas Mavericks and the Utah Jazz, the latter seeing Houston come back from as many as 19 points down to pick up a 104-93 win.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers feels Houston's good start has a lot to do with Howard's reincarnation from the struggles of last year. "I don't know if it's health or confidence," Rivers said of Howard. "It's probably a little bit of both. When you're coming off an injury, no matter who you are you still question what you can do as far as athletically and then that affects your confidence."
The Clippers [2-1], with a terrific power one-two punch of Blake Griffin and Jordan, come against a two of Howard and Omer Asik, two formidable big men capable of completely shutting down the opponents' offence.
"They're really big and there's nothing much more than that," Rivers said. "They're big and dominant. They dominate on the glass, right now. They clog up the paint [and] make it tough to get to the paint. Dwight has been extremely active."
"It will be as much of a challenge for us as it is for them," Jordan added. "We're definitely going to run them and I'm pretty sure they're going to want to bang and things that we're accustomed to. We definitely want to try to get those guys in as many pick-and-rolls as possible and run them as much as we can. Those guys are pretty athletic but we want to definitely use our speed and agility as an advantage."
Where to watch
The game is scheduled for a 9 am IST start on Tuesday morning with live coverage on Sony Six.