For about a quarter, the Los Angeles Lakers hung around and made a game out of Wednesday night’s highly anticipated date with Dwight Howard. The booing was loud, the heckling was emotional but the result was never really in doubt.
After trading away Steve Blake an hour prior to tip-off, the already short-handed Lakers went from thin to starving. Jordan Farmar, who was considered doubtful a day earlier, was announced fit to provide 20 minutes off the bench. Jodie Meeks, who was meant to ease into his return from a sprained ankle, was now starting.
Howard started strong, and he already had a double-double by halftime. With 14 points and 10 rebounds, Howard led the Rockets to a 21-point lead at the half. Ultimately, the jeers, chants and overall negative energy did not bother the former Lakers' center.
At halftime, Howard spent part of his warm-ups talking to a group of fans sitting courtside. He was smiling, and he the conversation did not seem to be confrontational.
However, as the ball was put in play, the fans continued to jeer and heckle. At one point in the third quarter, the crowd began a chant of “Howard Sucks!” Hearing the chant, Howard smiled and joined along. As he went down the court, he caught the ball and dunked it with enough authority to silence the fans—for a moment.
Wednesday night was not about solving the Lakers’ problems or proving this team was better without Howard. Wednesday night was an opportunity for the fans to release their frustrations at a player who disappointed during his lone season in Los Angeles and offended fans with how he left.
By the time the fourth quarter came about, empty seats were visible. Los Angeles had expressed its frustration, and voicing that frustration was not going to change the outcome.
The Lakers were tied for the worst record in the Western Conference. Howard and the Rockets were on their way to a top-three finish in the West. Booing Howard did not change that, and ultimately, it did not make everything better.