HOUSTON -- Dwight Howard is happy again. He says he has put his disappointing and drama-filled season in Los Angeles behind him. He seems ecstatic about joining the Houston Rockets and helping the young team compete for a championship -- and maybe, just maybe, he will return to form as the NBAs most dominant big man. "Im in a better place mentally, physically and spiritually now," Howard said. His delight is evident in watching him interact with his new teammates. He wears a broad smile and fits of laughter are common as he chats with his fellow Rockets. Howard spurned the Lakers to sign an $88 million deal with Houston, joining James Harden and a team that made the playoffs last season for the first time since 2009. He wouldnt get into specifics about the problems in his short stint with the Lakers after he was traded there in August 2012 from Orlando as part of a four-team trade. But most agree that he had a strained relationship with Kobe Bryant in a season where he has admitted that he wasnt having fun at times. The Lakers struggled all season and was swept in the first round of the playoffs. The Lakers could have offered him a five-year contract worth $118 million, but he chose to make the move to Houston with a four-year deal. "The situation in L.A., what happened is over with," Howard said. "It didnt work out on both sides. So we have to move on. It happens in everyday life. People decide to do different things with their lives. Its just that when youre NBA and at the top of your game everybody wants to know what youre doing." Howard lights up when asked about his new teammates and talks endlessly about the fun theyve had in bonding both on and off the court. When asked if that aspect of the move was the most important to him after last season, his response was telling -- even if he wouldnt specifically address the Lakers. "For any team to be successful you have to have a great environment," he said. "You dont want to work in a bad place." Whether simply perception or reality, his feud with Bryant had some wondering if he was the problem. There were questions if he might mess up the chemistry of a team that made marked improvement in the first year with James Harden on the roster. The Rockets brushed off that notion, and everyone has raved about Howards personality and work ethic. "Dwights a great guy," coach Kevin McHale said. "Plays hard, likes to have fun, so its just been pretty seamless to add him to the team." Harden, who was the fifth-leading scorer in the league last season, rolled his eyes when asked if hed be able to coexist with Howard when Bryant couldnt. "Its my job to make it work," the 24-year-old Harden said. "Hes going to teach me some things that I dont know and Ill teach him some things he doesnt know. Thats the kind of partnership and friendship were going to have in order to be successful. Thats the only way you can be successful is if you be 100 per cent with each other." Howard struggled last season after back surgery. He now knows that he came back too soon and said he never felt like himself. An entire off-season of rehabilitation and training has him feeling like the player he once was. He wasnt as dominant in 2012 as he has been, but still averaged more than 17 points per game and led the league in rebounding with 12.4 an outing. Though hes left L.A., he knows that the glare of the spotlight probably wont dim much with the expectations surrounding the Rockets. Thats OK with him. After last year, hes more equipped to deal with it. "If you get caught up in the good, bad and the ugly, it messes you up as a person and as a player," he said. "I think some of that happened with me last year. I allowed the bad stuff that happened to really sit in my head, push myself away from people in different situations and thats not who I am. So you have to step away from all the negativity or whatever it might be and just focus on the task at hand." Howard is just 27, but hes one of the older players on a Houston team that was the NBAs youngest a year ago. He enjoys the energy of his younger teammates, but joked that when theyd want to play 10 or 12 pickup games in a row, hed beg them to slow down. "Im like, Guys, Im almost pushing 30. I need a break," he said. "But I love it." Howard stayed away from talking Lakers, but he couldnt stop talking about his other former team, the Magic. He referred to Orlando often when discussing why he likes the Rockets and how theyve made him feel at home. Howard specifically talked about the bond he and his Magic teammates had in 2009. "Theyre full of life and after practice everybody is together talking and I just love that feeling," he said of the Rockets. "It reminds me of the team in Orlando when we went to the Finals -- we were always together. Everything that we did was together. It really makes the team better on the floor when you have that great chemistry off the floor." Now, hes made the Rockets contenders after several lean years for the first time since Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady were on the roster. "Were goofy. We have fun, but we like to work," Harden said, referring to himself and Howard. "Thats the most important thing. Were not going to be all strict, were young. We like to have fun. When its time to get serious and when its time to win, well be focused." China Jerseys Cheap
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. He was attracted by the punishing defence, the strong running game and a coaching staff he trusted. The 49ers announced Thursday that Manningham had signed a two-year deal to join the team he helped knock out in the NFC championship game two months ago in their latest offensive upgrade at wide receiver. MONTREAL -- Rene Bourque scored three goals as the Montreal Canadiens chased goalie Henrik Lundqvist and defeated the New York Rangers 7-4 on Tuesday to stave off elimination in the NHL Eastern Conference final. The Rangers, who lead the best-of-seven series 3-2, will have another chance to book a trip to the Stanley Cup final in Game 6 on Thursday night in New York. Bourques second goal proved to be the game-winner and came just after the Rangers came back to tie the game at 4-4 in the second period. "Everybody was ready for this game," said Bourque. "We knew the situation. We got a big power-play goal early and a few others. "It was just a see-saw battle back and forth. (Dale) Weise made a great play to me. I called for the puck and somehow it got through. It was nice to get in there." Alex Galchenyuk, Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty also scored for Montreal, which outshot the Rangers 28-27 Derek Stepan, playing with a guard on his helmet to protect a broken jaw suffered from a Brandon Prust hit in Game 3, returned to the lineup to score twice for the Rangers. Chris Kreider had a goal and three assists and Rick Nash also scored. "It was just a strange game," said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault. "It was a different game from what weve seen so far in the series, but now were going home." At 10:41 of the third, Rangers defenceman John Moore was given a major penalty and was ejected for a blindside, open ice hit on Dale Weise that was almost identical to Prusts hit on Stepan. Weise was wobbly when he got up and went for treatment, but returned to the bench late in the period. "The league will do what it has to do," Vigneault said of the hit. "John is not the type of person who would try to hurt someone, but it was a late hit." It was a night of strange bounces and spotty goaltending, even if New Yorks best chance of the game saw Carl Hagelins shot stopped by the end of Dustin Tokarskis stick midway through the first period. Lundqvist was pulled in favour of Cam Talbot after allowing four goals on 18 shots, while Tokarski stayed in despite allowing four on his first 14. Tokarski was especially strong in the third period through a string of New York power plays. "Everybody talks about how (Lundqvist) is a great goalie: Has he been better than (Tokarski) this series?" asked Bourque. "I dont thinkk so.dddddddddddd "(Tokarski) made some big saves for us too. We had a couple bad bounces but our power play was the difference. We got some traction, got a couple goals in tight." The Rangers did a good job of cancelling the initial rush Montreal gets from its pre-game buildup in winning the opening two games of the series, but Ginette Renos O Canada worked to plan this time. Only 22 seconds in, Kreider was sent off for tripping and the Canadiens converted when Galchenyuk tipped in P.K. Subbans point shot from the edge of the crease at 1:48. Stepan tied it at 10:44 of the first on a 30-foot shot off a rush that fooled Tokarski. Plekanec restored the lead with a similar goal at 12:24 as he swiped the puck between two defenders and saw it beat Lundqvist. The second period was a festival of goals. Pacioretty got it started on a gritty feed from Brendan Gallagher at 3:44 and Bourque gave Montreal a three-goal lead when he spun and scored from close range. That chased Lundqvist. Nash whipped a puck at the Montreal net and saw it go in off defenceman Andrei Markovs skate 9:48, Stepan got his second in a mass scramble in front of Tokarski at 12:06 and Kreider tied it on a power play at 14:12 on a tic-tac-toe play after Subban lost his stick. The Bell Centre went quiet, but exploded again when Bourque got his second at 15:10 as he beat Talbot from 10 feet out. Several hats were thrown on the ice after Weise sent Bourque in alone to get his third of the game 6:33 into the third period. Desharnais scored into an empty net during a New York power play at 15:43 and crowd sang Ole Ole in celebration. "I think youre starting to see us playing Montreal Canadiens hockey," said Pacioretty. "I dont think youve really seen it in this series just yet. It was great to see a little taste of it. I think we still have more. I think we still have little things to work on. And it should be a fun one going back there." Notes: Canadiens defenceman Alexei Emelin, who appears to have been playing on bad knee, sat out with an undisclosed injury. Rookie Nathan Beaulieu played on the third pairing, while Mike Weaver moved onto the second pair with Andrei Markov. . . With eight playoff goals, Bourque is only one short of his total in 63 regular season games. . . Prust served the second of his two-game suspension and can return for Game 6. . . With Stepan back, J.T. Miller sat for New York. ' ' '