Denton: Howard Hopes Magic Fans Will Remember Good Times

By John Denton
March 5, 2014

ORLANDO – Dwight Howard hopes that, in time, Magic fans will remember him more for his many highs in Orlando instead of his messy divorce throughout the 2011-12 season. And most of all Howard hopes that eventually he will have the forgiveness of the still-steamed fans who once adored him.

``Last year was a little bit fresh with a lot of Magic fans. They were really upset with how things went down. But at the end of the day time deals all wounds,’’ Howard said Wednesday night before his Houston Rockets faced the Magic at the Amway Center. ``Even though it’s only been a year, I’ve forgiven the people that I needed to forgive. Hopefully the fans can forgive me for how the situation ended. But my love for the city will never change.’’

Howard, who demanded a trade from the franchise that he played for the first eight years of his NBA career, returned to Orlando for the second time on Wednesday night. After being traded by the Magic on Aug. 10, 2012, Howard spent one disastrous season with the Los Angeles Lakers before signing a free-agent deal with the Rockets over the summer.

The Magic have been celebrating their 25th anniversary season by showing video montages of former players all season. The franchise plans to show one of Howard – the Magic’s all-time leader in points, rebounds and blocked shots – during a time out in the first quarter. Howard was unsure what emotions the video would trigger.

``I don’t know. I had some great moments here, ones that I will never forget,’’ Howard said. ``So I might get a little emotional, we’ll see.’’

Howard helped the Magic reach the playoffs in six of his eight seasons in Orlando, and he got them to the NBA Finals in 2009 and the Eastern Conference Finals in 2010. But Howard was upset over a first-round playoff exit in 2011 and he clashed several times with former head coach Stan Van Gundy. When the franchise refused to initially fire Van Gundy, Howard demanded a trade in 2011 following the NBA lockout.

Howard left the team late in the 2011-12 season with a back injury and was never seen again in a Magic uniform. He admitted that the ugly finish to his time in Orlando often overshadows all of the good that he accomplished in Magic pinstripes.

``I think people remember all of the bad things that happen to them and they never remember all of the good things that happen,’’ he said. ``There were a lot of great moments that happened here in Orlando from the first time that I got here. Me and Jameer, we wanted to change how people viewed the Magic. That was our mission while we were here and I thought we did a good job with that.’’

Rockets forward Chandler Parsons grew up in suburban Orlando and his grandparents had Magic season tickets for more than 20 years. Parsons said he was on hand when Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway returned to Orlando after defecting to other teams and he was booing alongside other fans. He said he might have a similar reaction to Howard on Wednesday.

``I’d probably boo him,’’ Parsons said with a laugh. ``That’s what makes playing on the road so fun and exciting; you support your home team. And anytime somebody leaves that team you are going to be upset. Obviously it’s a business decision and he had to do what was best for him. But as a fan you don’t care about anything else but the fact that the left the Magic. We understand it and I would definitely boo, too.’’

Howard was complimentary of the young pieces that the Magic have acquired during the rebuilding process back in October, but he said he hasn’t watched the team play this season. Orlando acquired Arron Afflalo, Nikola Vucevic, Maurice Harkless and two first-round picks in exchange for Howard.

``I don’t watch SportsCenter or NBA TV or anything like that. My focus is on our squad and what we’re trying to accomplish. If I’m not playing basketball, I’m doing something with my family,’’ Howard said. ``I’ve grown the past couple of years and it’s made me a better person. I’m excited about my future and the team’s future. And it seems like the things that are going on here (in Orlando) are great. So I’m excited to see the future of the Magic.’’