HOUSTON -- The last time Dwight Howard played on the West Coast there was all this noise about his happiness and whether he wanted out.
Howard disputed reports he was unhappy and whether his departure from the Houston Rockets was coming sooner than expected.
This weekend, Howard returns to the West Coast playing his best basketball of the season, and the only noise from the starting center is related to his game.
In the past eight games, Howard is averaging 19.5 points and 13.3 rebounds.
Howard is third in the league in rebounding (11.9), second in field goal percentage (.612) and leads the team with EFG percentage of .612.
Whenever Howard speaks with reporters this weekend, his renaissance most likely will be mentioned.
"Earlier in the season, missing most of the preseason, not being able to get in a rhythm, not being able to practice (is) very tough to go out there in the game and perform," Howard said. "As of late -- the last couple of weeks, last month -- I’ve been able to get a couple of good practices in, really get good individual work in, and its paying off."
Howard played in just one preseason game because of a stiff back, and the Rockets medical staff brought him along slowly. He didn’t play in back-to-back games early in the regular season, but as the season has progressed, the minutes restrictions has been lifted and his ability to participate in those back-to-back contests has returned.
He played in 16 consecutive games before getting a maintenance day to rest some lower back tightness, missing a Jan. 7 game against Utah. He returned the next game, Jan. 10, playing a season-high 43 minutes in an overtime victory against Indiana.
"He’s playing well on both ends of the floor," guard James Harden said. "I think especially offensively he’s not trying to force it, and that’s why he’s scoring and able to get touches and get easy dunks and things like that. Defensively he’s helping, he’s contesting every shot at the rim, pick-and-roll coverage is up. He’s doing the things we need him to do in order for us to win."
Earlier in the season, Howard’s touches appeared down for a number of reasons. The Rockets weren’t moving the ball as well, so they became just a jump shooting team with limited ball movement. Howard himself needed to make himself a better target in the post so point guards could direct passes his way.
When the Rockets move the ball, Howard gets in position to retrieve passes in the post and he’s running in transition for put-backs, this team is very dangerous.
"Yeah, I think it’s getting better," Howard said regarding his increase in the offense. "As the season goes on, it will get better for myself and for everybody else. So the main thing is to continue to do all the small things on the floor and continue to dominate both ends."
After Friday night’s loss to Cleveland, Howard recorded a team-high 14 points and 11 rebounds for his eighth-consecutive game with a double-double.
So the noise about unhappiness is over, and now the only discussion around here is about how Howard is playing.
"He’s playing phenomenal," point guard Patrick Beverley said of Howard. "We just have to try to get him the ball, and at the same time allow James and a lot of others to do things also. It’s not easy, but us as point guards we got to recognize how the game is going, and if Dwight is rolling is to make sure he continues to get touches -- the mix of him and James is so great offensively you don’t want to shy away from any one person, and the more successful they are the more successful we are as a unit."