It’s the first time that superstar center Dwight Howard will ever be playing against the team that selected him No. 1 overall back in the 2004 draft. DH12 served as the franchise’s centerpiece for eight years, before team brass elected to ship him to L.A. as part of a blockbuster deal this past summer.
While many of his teammates and former coaches are gone (only Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, Ish Smith, Hedo Turkoglu and Glen Davis remain from last year), the familiar feelings won’t be when the Lakers host the Magic on Sunday night.
Will Dwight overcome his emotions and put together an All-Star performance, or will the big man shrink from the spotlight and allow his teammates to neutralize the lowly opponent?
We predict that Howard will step up and deliver against his former team, going off for his second 20-20 performance in three days.
He found his place in new coach Mike D’Antoni’s system on Sunday, dominating the paint against the Nuggets, and winded up scoring 28 points (even hitting a three-point attempt) on 12-of-16 shooting, grabbing 20 rebounds and blocking three shots.
Howard initially struggled under D’Antoni but seems to have found a rhythm and won’t be knocked out by the size-challenged Magic. Second-year player Nikola Vucevic is the only true C on the Magic roster and doesn’t have the experience or toughness to lock down a beast like DH12.
With that said, we project Howard to drop 25 points (10-of-13 shooting), pull down 21 boards, block four shots and dish two assists.
Those are All-NBA center worthy stats and those of an NBA superstar that would like nothing more than to prove he’s moved on from the “Dwightmare” that was the 2011-12 season.
While Howard will likely never forget his time in Orlando, he’ll be looking to bury the hatchet and move on after destroying his former team on Sunday.