HOUSTON -- Dwight Howard has been through this before.
Last season, his one and only in Los Angeles, he faced the hype and emotion of facing the team that employed him for the first eight years of his career. This time, when Howard suits up for the Rockets against the Lakers on Thursday night in his new home, there is considerable hype but not much emotion associated with Howard's latest reunion tour.
"Well, I was in Orlando for eight years, so it was a totally different situation," Howard said Thursday. "... What happened has happened. It's over with. And I want to discuss our team and what we're trying to accomplish."
What that means, ostensibly, is no more reflection from Howard on his one nightmarish season in LA.
"I don't think there's a need for me to continue to talk about the Lakers and what happened, Howard said. "I've done enough talking about it. It's about Houston and what we're trying to accomplish. I don't think every discussion needs to be about the Lakers."
Well, it does when you're an All-Star who elected to leave the Lakers as a free agent and move to Houston -- especially when you're facing your old team for the first time.
"It's the same as when you leave a team and the teams play their ex's," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "... It's like somebody going back to where they were -- when [Steve] Nash went back to Phoenix the first time or [Kevin Garnett] going back to Boston."
In truth, everyone seems intrigued by the storyline except the main character. Howard said Thursday that the timing of a matchup with the Lakers -- so early in the season, to get it out of the way -- didn't matter to him. He refused to reminisce about his ill-fated time in LA, and didn't even want to respond to Pau Gasol's comments from a day earlier in which Gasol said Howard "held certain expectations and certain demands" about his role on the Lakers that "probably weren't fulfilled."
"It doesn't matter," Howard said. "We play for two separate teams now."
But on Thursday night -- not to mention Feb. 19, when they do this at Staples Center -- they'll be on the same court again.
"Everybody's been great," Howard said of his new surroundings. "I really appreciate my time here so far. The fans have been great. The organization has been amazing. My teammates are unbelievable. I'm having a great time."
Except when it comes to talking about the Lakers.