Denton: Does Dwight Regret Leaving Orlando?

By John Denton
March 11, 2013

ORLANDO -- Even though it sounds like some sort of basketball blasphemy with Dwight Howard playing now for a marquee Los Angeles Lakers’ franchise and living in a tricked-out Bel Air mansion, part of the all-star center has to wonder if leaving Orlando and divorcing himself from the Magic was indeed the right move.

He has to, right? Not that he would ever admit to it publicly, but he has to at least wonder considering all that has transpired in the last 11 months?

After all, Howard’s first season in Los Angeles has been something less than a storybook Hollywood tale. From the Lakers’ start-to-finish struggles, to the messy coaching changes, to the contentious spats with Kobe Bryant, to Howard’s injury troubles and finally the perpetual scrutiny he’s faced at every turn, the all-NBA center’s time in Los Angeles so far has seemed like his worst possible nightmare.

In Orlando, Howard was so universally adored that even after making a trade demand before last season he was still cheered by Magic fans. It was many of those same fans who helped him once set a record for the most votes in All-Star Game history. In Orlando, he was not only the face of the franchise, but the likenesses of his face were all over the Amway Center, splattered across the side of City Hall and on billboards and busses throughout Central Florida.

Howard, who ultimately got his wish and was traded to the Lakers in August, has to wonder if leaving everything he had in Orlando for a situation in L.A. where he’s still trying to gain acceptance was worth all the headaches, stepped on toes and resentment. He has to wonder that, right?

As he returns to Orlando’s Amway Center on Tuesday night for the first time since he played his last game there on April 5, 2012, Howard seems to have taken a conciliatory tone about his messy breakup with the Magic. Maybe it was just P.R. spin, an attempt to lessen the vitriol likely awaiting him from jilted Magic fans or truly his feelings, but Howard expressed regret to USA Today over the way things in Orlando ended.

`` In Orlando, I handled a lot of stuff the wrong way,’’ Howard told USA Today. ``If any of those people in Orlando are upset with how I did it, I apologize for the way I handled it and the way it was handled in the media.

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