Chalk this one up to time healing all wounds—except maybe the tread marks on Stan Van Gundy’s back from where Dwight Howard threw him under the bus.
As part of an ongoing celebration of the team’s 25th anniversary, the Orlando Magic will roll a video tribute to Howard during the first quarter of Wednesday’s game against his newest employer, the Houston Rockets.
For the most part this season, those classy video tributes have gone over well, and the "Legends Nights" have been tremendous hits with fans eager to relive the franchise’s glory days. Why, even former superstar point guard Penny Hardaway, who left the franchise on a sour note in 1999 and was booed for years, received a loud, emotion-filled ovation when he returned in February.
So Penny got a standing ovation. Great. But there’s a decided difference between 15 years of distance—when an entirely new generation of fans might’ve been brought into the fold—and the 18 months since an ornery Howard was dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Still, Denton sees Howard’s subsequent banishment from L.A. as confirmation of the age-old adage that, sometimes, you don’t know what you had until it’s gone.
For all of Howard’s critics in Orlando, consider this: When he hit unrestricted free agency for the first time last summer, Howard was happy to leave Los Angeles so that he could look for a city and situation that most closely resembled what he had in Orlando.
Fair enough. My prediction? A mixed reaction—some cheers, mostly boos and maybe a few flying Skittles.
For all of Howard’s soap-opera shenanigans over the last two years, we’d like to think his disastrous stint with the Lakers forced him to grow up a bit.
At the very least, he sure sounds like he’s having fun in Houston, where the Rockets have quietly emerged as one of the West’s most potent threats. Should his new team grow into a consistent conference threat, Dwight might indeed find some permanent peace—something that's eluded him these past few years.
Here’s Howard in an interview conducted last fall with Rockets.com’s Jason Friedman:
It’s been great, man. The fans have been great, the organization has been amazing. I’m just so happy to be a part of it all. This is my third team and just the reception I’ve gotten from staff and my teammates, all the young guys – even though I’m fairly young myself – it’s just added more life to somebody that is full of life, so I’m so happy about that.
Say what you will about D12, it’s hard to believe his intentions were ever malicious. Hopefully Magic fans remember as much on Wednesday.
Besides, it's hard to argue Orlando didn't make the right move: By dealing Dwight, the Magic initiated a rebuilding process that, while temporarily painful, has set them up nicely for the future.