HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — If Dwight Howard is really trying to put his checkered recent past behind him, he has a strange way of making it happen.
The Houston Rockets’ All-Star center has jilted fan bases in Orlando and Los Angeles (Lakers) in each of the past two seasons, bolting for what he believed to be a better situation in each instance. But he still wants to feel the love in both places. After staying silent for weeks while he was orchestrating exists from both places, Howard is finally opening up about how things went down.
The break-up in Orlando was about him not trusting the folks in charge to have his back after he and Stan Van Gundy‘s routine head-butting on certain things went public during that infamous post-shootaround scene where Van Gundy told reporters that he knew Howard had asked that the Magic fire him.
When the Magic fired Van Gundy in May 2012, Howard’s mind was already made up. He was gone. The trade to the Lakers ended in disaster as well, with Howard being unable to co-exist with Kobe Bryant and his misgivings after the franchise hired Mike D’Antoni to replace Mike Brown instead of Howard’s preferred choice, Phil Jackson.
“There were some things that I missed about Orlando,” Howard said. “There’s a lot of situations that nobody really knows that I kept on the inside, but there’s some things about Orlando that I missed. I’d say that getting out in the community and doing a lot of stuff that I did, I miss doing that stuff in Orlando and the relationships that I built with a lot of people over there in Orlando. I miss that.
“But I have no regrets. I’m happy everything happened the way it happened. Even though I got hurt in the process and I had to go through a tough time, it made me a better person. I’m more mature now. I know how to handle situations different than I did back then.”
Howard views the Rockets as a championship contender.
He thinks Houston has similar talent to the 2008-09 Magic squad he led to the NBA Finals.
On Tuesday, Howard compared Rockets small forward Chandler Parsons to Hedo Turkoglu and Rockets shooting guard James Harden to Courtney Lee but also added that Harden has more scoring ability. He compared Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley to Rafer Alston and Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin to Anthony Johnson.
Howard said he was disappointed that, last February, after the Magic acquired Tobias Harris in a trade, the team granted Harris’ request to wear No. 12, Howard’s old number.
“I just think that despite whatever happened, there was a lot of things that I did and that we did as a team, and that number was special down there,” Howard said. “And I was a little bit upset about that.”
What Howard may not realize is that Harris is wearing No. 12 to pay tribute to a close friend who had died of leukemia at 17 years old.
Simply put, Howard can’t have it both ways. He can’t depart the way he did and expect anyone in Orlando to hold him in the same regard they did before the bottom fell out.
The Magic might change their tune some day, years from now when the sting of the divorce wears off a bit more. And Harris will rock that No. 12 jersey well. He was one of the biggest and most promising surprises for a Magic team that struggled mightily last season in their post-Howard existence.
Clearly, this drama is not going away, no matter how many times everyone involved tries to make it so. Howard will have to relive and rehash these things every time he sets foot in Orlando and Los Angeles. And maybe that’s the ultimate burden he’ll have to bear, the eternal venom from fan bases scorned (Magic fans will at least admit they were torn to shreds when he left).
Howard says he has no regrets … time will tell!