It didn’t take long for Howard’s expression to change from joy to sorrow.
Howard, making his return to Staples Center, was sent off between the first and second quarters, as referee Kane Fitzgerald called a technical foul on Howard for intentionally hitting Lakers big man Montrezl Harrell, then that he was on his way to the Philadelphia bench after the buzzer had sounded.
Howard and Harrell had already been called up for a double technical fault for intermingling with 1 minute and 8 seconds left of the first quarter, making second technology an automatic disqualification for Howard.
Harrell pushed Howard away from him and continued to the Lakers bench, turning to say goodbye to the three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner as he pitched his case with Fitzgerald.
The Sixers won 109-101.
It’s unclear what caused the pair’s bad blood, but Harrell, last season’s sixth man of the year while playing for the LA Clippers, may never have joined the Lakers during the offseason if Howard hadn’t signed with the Sixers.
At the start of free agency in November, Howard tweeted, “I stay where I belong. The Laker Nation I love you all. Purple and gold never get old. ”
In a bizarre turn of events, however, he quickly deleted the tweet and ended up signing a one-year, $ 2.6 million contract with Philadelphia. Later today, the Lakers struck a two-year, $ 19 million deal with Harrell.