If Dwight Howard had this much fun in Staples Center last season, he might never have left.

Howard smiled and sang. He posed for pictures and traded trash talk with fans. He danced and dunked and dominated what is left of the defection-, injury- and trade-depleted Lakers in his first game against them in Los Angeles since stunning the Lakers by bolting for the Rockets.

More than anything, he offered 28 minutes of evidence to support his argument that he is in a better place, healthier, happier and far better than when he left. By the time his happy reunion was over with two minutes still left in the third quarter, the Rockets 134-108 beat-down of the Lakers, the Rockets biggest rout of the Lakers ever in Los Angeles, was certain.

“We always want to have fun when we’re playing basketball,” Howard said. “We love what we’re doing. We’re playing great. We take the game very seriously. At the same time, we want to have fun while we’re playing.”

As with everything else he tried, he accomplished that convincingly.

By the fourth quarter, Howard giggled on the bench as the Rockets rolled to their largest lead (36) of the season, putting up more points, shots taken (104), shots made (52), fast break points (26) and second-chance points (26), pushing their winning streak to a season-best eight games. As Howard, Pat Beverley and Chandler Parsons happily sang along with the taunts, calling for more with the scoreboard overwhelmingly on their side, Howard rarely seemed as at home in Los Angeles as he did while playing with the Rockets.

“I think it got everybody hyped tonight,” Howard said of the scene. “My teammates, the first thing they said is they want to win this game for me. Just want to go out there and set the tone.”

Until the fourth quarter, Howard had spent most of the game alternating offensive rebounds with violent slams. He collected 20 point, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots, waiting until the second half to laugh at the anger Lakers fans directed at him.

“We’ve had a lot of talks,” Howard said. “We all just want to win. The big picture is the championship. Each game we want to get better. That’s our focus. I think tonight will help us grow as a team.”

Boos predictably filled the Staples Center arena from the time Howard stepped on the court for warm ups and were reprised every time Howard touched the ball. As if scorned in a bitter breakup, Lakers fans had waited through the long, unsatisfying season to direct their fury and frustration at the player that left them as if he alone was to blame for all that has wrecked the Lakers season.

Unable to move on after the breakup with the Lakers trotting out a team battling the Kings for last in the Western Conference, and no real reinforcements moving in while Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and many others have been out, Lakers fans remained bitter with their ex.