Dwight Howard has lost a lot of fans in the Orlando area since last season, and his group of supporters shrunk even more last week when the Los Angeles Lakers center called his former Orlando Magic teammates a bunch of guys that nobody wanted. Howard later tried to clarify what he meant, but it seems like most people don’t want to hear it.
Howard will return to Orlando for the first time as a member of the Lakers on Tuesday. During a recent interview with USA Today Sports, he offered an apology to the people of the city where he began his career.
“In Orlando, I handled a lot of stuff the wrong way,” Howard said. “If any of those people in Orlando are upset with how I did it, I apologize for the way I handled it and the way it was handled in the media.
“I really just got caught up in wanting to please everybody else. I really love that city. That was the hardest thing to do was to leave that city because I basically grew up there. That was my whole life. Orlando was it. I did not want to leave all that behind — the city, just everything about it. The fans. But I wanted a change for my life. I just felt like there was something else out there for me.”
No matter what he says, the people of Orlando are going to feel resentment toward Howard for the way he handled himself and allowed his relationship with Stan Van Gundy to become an embarrassment. Whether the reports of him constantly changing his mind about his future with the Magic were true or not, Howard did very little to clear things up during last year’s roller coaster ride. He acknowledged that he made a mistake in just sitting back and allowing the speculation to run rampant.
“Whenever something happened, I should’ve let my teammates know,” Howard explained. “I should’ve said, ‘OK, this is what’s going on. I know what’s being said, but this is how I really feel.’ Or, ‘Hey, Coach, this is what’s being said, but this is how I feel,’ instead of just letting everything pile on and me not saying anything. I just felt at the time like, ‘I’m not going to say anything. I’m just going to sit back and let it unfold.’ By doing that, everybody was getting mixed signals.”
At the moment, Howard’s priority should be helping the Lakers sneak into the playoffs and earning the respect of the fans and his teammates in LA. The Lakers have won eight of their last 10 games and Dwight is averaging 15.5 points and 14.8 rebounds during that stretch. That may help his popularity in LA, but Howard should expect to hear plenty of boos on Tuesday no matter how hard he begs for forgiveness prior to his return.