After being traded by the Atlanta Hawks to the Charlotte Hornets in the summer, Dwight Howard has always had an extra motivation to face his former team this season and that was no different in their most recent encounter.
The center posted a season-high 33 points, along with 12 rebounds, two steals and two blocks to lead his Hornets past the Hawks in a 129-117 win back at Philips Arena on Thursday night.
Even though Atlanta has the worst record in the east and both teams are out of playoff contention, it was still a nice comeback game for Howard after he was offloaded by his hometown team just one year into a three-year deal.
He didn't hide his feeling after the game as he thanked the Hawks and head coach Mike Budenholzer for giving him extra motivation for the season.
"It motivated me to just come back this season with a different mindset," Howard told reporters, according to George Henry of The Charlotte Observer. "Play with more confidence and stuff like that. So thank you, Bud."
Now on his fifth NBA team, the veteran big man is used to playing against his old sides throughout the year and these games usually bring the best out of him.
That's why Dennis Schroder wasn't surprised by his display against Atlanta and took a subtle shot at his ex-teammate.
"He plays always great against his former team," Schroder said, according to Hawks team writer KL Chouinard. "Credit to him too, but that's like four games each year, you know? Houston, L.A., us. I think he's always giving his best there but the other games he ... (shrugs)."
The numbers certainly back up Schroder's claims as Howard's production does appear to increase when facing his former teams.
According to theScore, in four games against the Hawks this season, he's averaged 22.8 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks.
In two games against the Houston Rockets, he's put up 22.5 points, 17 boards, and two blocks.
Against the Los Angeles Lakers: 18 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks and against the Orlando Magic: 18.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, two assists and a block.
Maybe if he had this same hunger against every team, the 32-year-old may have put his team in the playoff hunt and made the All-Star team again.
But to be fair to the three-time Defensive Player of the Year, he has been rejuvenated this season and has been playing some of the best basketball since his successful days with the Magic.
He's contributed 16.5 points, 12.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks with the Hornets and has been one bright spot in another disappointing campaign for the franchise.
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