Houston pulled away in the fourth quarter with a solid season opener that featured one of the NBA's most significant off-season acquisitions.
Howard spent eight years with Orlando before spending last season with the Los Angeles Lakers.
He did not fit in well with the high-profile Lakers, but appeared to be a welcome addition with the Rockets in his first game. He hit 8-of-14 from the field and scored 17 points to go with his mammoth performance on the backboards.
Francisco Garcia added 19 points for the Rockets and Jeremy Lin had 16.
Charlotte shot just 37 percent from the field and was led by Josh McRoberts with 15 points.
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