Dwight Howard makes his presence known in Orlando with the Lakers
ORLANDO, Fla. — It was impossible to find a trace of Dwight Howard around the team that employed him for eight years.
Large graphic illustrations of many past and present Orlando Magic players dotted the interior near the VIP entrance of Amway Arena: Nick Anderson, Darrell Armstrong, Glen Davis, Bo Outlaw, etc.
Where was Howard?
“There’s not one of Dwight,” an usher said, shaking her head matter-of-factly.
Posters hung from street lamps outside the arena, touting the “Truly Legendary,” and including singers Pit Bull and L’il Wayne, but no sign of Howard.
What about the Magic team shop in the front corner of the arena? Nice try.
Plenty of Jameer Nelson jerseys and a 50% discount on bobbleheads of J.J. Redick, who was traded last month to Milwaukee, but still no Howard, unless you counted page 63 of a 72-page NBA sticker book.
To be fair, there was also no Earl Clark memorabilia, the other player the Magic sent to the Lakers in the Howard trade last August.
But Howard was everywhere once Tuesday’s game began.
One fan yelled out “Dwight, you suck” during the national anthem. A bit later, the scoreboard briefly showed a red-headed kid booing with gusto.
Some fans wore Orlando Magic jerseys with “Coward” across the back, above Howard’s familiar No. 12.
Directly behind the Lakers bench, another fan wore a T-shirt with a graphic of Howard sucking on a pacifier and wearing a ribbon in his hair.
Yeah, he was suddenly everywhere. Including the stat sheet.
Howard had 39 points and 16 rebounds in the Lakers’ 106-97 victory.
He was so loose at the end of the third quarter, he saw courtside Magic fans booing him as he headed to the Lakers’ bench. So he mimicked them. Yes, he booed himself.
Howard irked Magic followers by asking for a trade last season, then appearing to rescind his request, only to ask again for a trade that was finally granted in a four-team deal.
Earlier Tuesday, Howard pleasantly discussed his time with the Magic, throwing out appreciation and kindness in equal doses during an interview session.
“We had a lot of great memories here and that will never be taken away from me,” he said. “I saw a city go from a team with just, like, nobody in the stands to a new arena and a packed house every night to see our team play.”
Not everything Tuesday was anti-Howard. One fan held up a sign that said, “Dwight Come Home.”
He did for one game.
And Magic fans booed him when he left for good with 49.9 seconds to play.
The crowd was so depleted, though, Howard’s new team ahead by 13, that plenty of cheers from Lakers fans could also be heard.
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