Howard impresses in Rockets debut

Howard impresses in Rockets debut
October 5, 2013, 9:15 pm
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Dwight Howard on his first Rockets game

After a summer of rumors, hope and anticipation, Dwight Howard played his first game as a Houston Rocket on Saturday night at the Toyota Center.

Howard’s much-awaited debut didn’t start off so great, however. He missed his first free throw and his first two field goal attempts were blocked.

But it got better. A lot better.

“I think he looked good,” James Harden said. “He looked real athletic. Explosive.”

Howard finished with 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting, nine rebounds, three assists and a block in just over 27 minutes in the Rockets’ 116-115 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. It was the team’s first preseason game of the 2013 season. Howard also made 7-of-11 free throws. His night was over late in the third quarter.

“He looked good,” head coach Kevin McHale said. “Active, had some blocked shots, rebounded, came over. I thought he did some nice stuff. Our starters, when they were in there, our plus/minus was very good.”

The Rockets built a lead behind Howard and the rest of the starters, but the reserves squandered it and the team lost its opener. The Rockets will now head to Asia for a game in the Philippines and a game in Taiwan.

The last Rocket announced, Howard’s crisp white No. 12 jersey popped sitting on top of his black compression shirt as he ran onto the court after Harden. The cheers for Harden and Howard were the loudest of the introductions. Howard was excited to play and said he didn’t feel nervous before the game.

“I’m just happy to get it going,” Howard said. “It came pretty quick after free agency, training camp and all that. But I think we’re going to have a great season. I’m looking forward to finishing these preseason games off and getting ready for the season.”

Howard’s first field goal in a Rockets uniform came on a smooth inside pass from Jeremy Lin with around six minutes remaining in the first half. Howard took the pass in the key and finished with a hook shot. In the second quarter, though, Lin and Howard failed to connect on an alley-oop. Lin tossed up an arrant pass for Howard but it hit the backboard. At media day, the two talked about a bad alley-oop from Lin that Howard was able to throw down during their offseason workouts. Howard couldn’t get this one.

“It was a lot of fun,” Lin said. “For me, I have to get used to throwing lobs and things like that but him drawing the defense, creating fouls and getting to the line, he puts so much pressure on the other team.

“I didn’t know how it was going to go. I didn’t know how it was going to work but I thought him and James played really well tonight and we were able to get both of them involved right away.”

Howard’s first two shots in a Rockets uniform were blocked, the first was swatted by Anthony Davis. Howard gathered the rebound and was then blocked by Greg Stiemsma. Howard missed a practice on Tuesday because of a sore foot but looked fine on Saturday.

“The biggest thing is we just have to learn how to play together,” Howard said. “That takes time. And just always talking to the guys and telling them that I’m looking for them, so be aware and just be ready to make plays. Me and James are getting on the same page, which is great, so I think we’re going to be pretty good.”

Some other highlights from Howard were when he finished with his left hand with 1.6 seconds left in the first half. He was fouled and made the free throw. He also had a nice little up and under move in the second half.

Harden led all Rockets scorers with 21 points on 6-of-11 shooting. He was one of seven Rockets to hit double figures.

“We did some good things,” Lin said. “We got a glimpse of what we’re capable of.”