The Lakers are taking on the 18-46 Orlando Magic tonight, a game that shouldn’t have much significance at all, except for the fact that this will be Dwight Howard’s first return to Amway Center, since he left the city of Orlando in dramatic fashion. According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin there was more media at this Lakers shootaround than he’s ever seen in a regular season playoff game. Of course, the chatter surrounding Dwight Howard wasn’t about the game at all, but rather the drama that’s surrounded his return for the past week, and yet during his media session on NBA.com, Howard said so far his arrival hasn’t been dramatic at all.
“Felt normal. I haven’t been here since my surgery, so I was happy to come back, see my house, go to waffle house, get a good meal. That was fun. I was happy about that.”
Besides a few fans at the Waffle House, Dwight said he hasn’t run into any fans since he arrived in Orlando yesterday, most likely because he stayed home to rest. After the drama last week surrounding the comments he made about his former teammates, specifically Jameer Nelson, Dwight said although him and Nelson haven’t talked, he has reached out. In Nelson’s media session on NBA.com this morning, he revealed that he hopes him and Dwight can maintain a friendship in the future.
“You make friends in the course of your life…some of them stick in your life and some of them don’t. We still have a lot of life to live and hopefully we can be friends after basketball.”
Before reiterating his position that he doesn’t believe Howard to be a “bad guy,” Nelson also made clear that this game does not have any more significance to him than any other.
“It’s our team verse theirs. It’s not a rival.”
After thanking the fans for their love during his eight years in Orlando, Dwight left his media session with an endearing cliche.
“I came here a boy and I left a man and it’s made me a better person being here. Thank you to all the fans that’s supported me.”
Hopefully, that man shows up on the court tonight, in massacring fashion. The Lakers lost to the Magic (113-103) in their last meeting at Staples Center, but Howard admitted he wasn’t even close to the shape that he’s in now. Don’t be surprised if Magic Head Coach Jacque Vaughn employs the Hack-A-Dwight strategy like he did in December. Let’s just hope tonight’s game doesn’t get close enough where that sometimes effective strategy becomes a factor. Tip-off scheduled for 4:00 PM PST.
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