Houston Rockets' Dwight Howard, left, and Omer Asik, of Turkey, reach for a rebound during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, Nov. 4, 2013, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 137-118. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

[Los Angeles Times]

Houston Rockets’ Dwight Howard, left, and Omer Asik, of Turkey, reach for a rebound during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, Nov. 4, 2013, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 137-118. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Dwight Howard walked past Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak in that Staples Center tunnel last spring and never really stopped, the allure of less pressure and a permanent honeymoon triggering a Texas two-step.

The hypersensitive hulk returns to the same court for the first time Monday night to face the Clippers, having gone from ejected in his final game as a Laker to elated in his first week as a Houston Rocket.

“I’m just happy to be on the floor playing, being a lot healthier than I was last season,” Howard told reporters a few days ago. “I’m just full of joy.”

Why wouldn’t he be? Howard’s debut with the Rockets has been the inverse of his dreadful start with the Lakers.

His team is 3-0 instead of 0-3. His body is spry as opposed to hobbled. His coach is safe and not embattled.

READ MORE