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By John Denton December 2, 2012
Howard, now a member of the Los Angeles Lakers following a four-team, 12-player trade in August, was all set to meet the franchise that he spent the first eight years of his NBA career on Sunday night in Los Angeles. While Howard was business-like in saying that he didn’t think he would experience any surreal feelings by going against the Magic, he was in a reflective mood when he talked about all of the memories he compiled with the Magic.
``I basically grew up in Orlando. I started there as a little boy and came out a man,’’ said Howard, whom the Magic took with the first overall draft pick in 2004 when he was but a raw teenager. ``I had eight wonderful years and it didn’t end the way that we want our stories to end, but that’s life and now it’s off to the next chapter.
``Going to The Finals, that was the greatest feeling I had as a Magic player,’’ continued Howard, who spoke just outside of the Lakers’ practice facility on Sunday morning. ``Just all of the playoff series that we had and listening to the fans cheer us on. And us going out into the community, The Parramore Kidz Zone and the BETA Center and all of the places that I visited on a weekly basis, those are all great memories.’’
Howard is the Magic’s all-time leader in minutes played (22,471), points (11,435), rebounds (8,072) and blocked shots (1,344), but his messy divorce from the franchise last season marred much of his career accomplishments. Howard opened last season by requesting a trade, waived an opt-out clause in March that kept him with the team and then left the team not to return again because of a back injury that required surgery. Howard then re-issued another trade demand, first wanting to go to Brooklyn, and then settling on a deal to the Lakers.
Howard said he endured several sleepless nights after making public his desire to leave the Magic. But he said he is at peace with his decision now because being surrounded by the likes of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol gives him the best chance to win a championship.
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