Sunday is going to be a weird day for Magic fans.
In one sense it will be extremely cathartic — the object of hatred for much of the past nine months will be front and center on the TV screen. Venom can be unleashed on Twitter and schadenfreude (taking pleasure in other people's pain) can be expressed in a very real manner. Let's not even go into the feelings should Orlando actually win in Los Angeles on Sunday.
In another sense it will be bizarre. Dwight Howard has changed his look. He is wearing a new jersey (same number, different color), got rid of one of his arm sleeves and added a headband. It is a tangible symbol of the change Howard is going through.
Yet, on the other hand, he is still much the same player. He will miss free throws. He will dunk hard. He will change shots in the paint.
And for eight years, he did all that in Orlando as hard as any player could. The first time the Magic face the Lakers, set up for tip off Sunday at 9:30 p.m. ET, will be full of storylines and will have all that emotion for fans wrapped into it. The players will feel some of that emotion at the beginning of the game I am sure. These guys are used to going hard after each other in practice and some probably even saw Howard on the AAU circuit back in the day or on other teams in the NBA.
But for Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick, guys who had played an entire career with Howard, there will be some adjustments that need to be made.
Redick brushed it off telling Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel after Friday's loss to the Nets:
No, you have teammates and then you don't have teammates. There'll be a day I won't play with Jameer (Nelson).
Glen Davis too brushed it off saying each team and player has their own issues to deal with in the midst of the season. And there is no argument there. The Lakers are back to .500 after the win over the Nuggets on Friday while the Magic sit at 5-10 after a disappointing end to their homestand. Orlando has a lot of things it wants to improve on heading into this road trip.
Howard too admitted following Friday's win that it will be weird to see the Magic blue on the opposing sideline, as Howard told Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:
Well, you know, it’s going to be a little weird playing against my former team. But we need a good win and [to] come out with a lot of energy. So I’m going to put all my effort into getting ready for the next game and playing with a lot of intensity and just having fun.
Indeed emotions may run high. In the end though it is just a basketball game. Any extra meaning attached to it comes from the fans.
Now March 12… that might be another story considering the raw, chaotic emotion that should be in Amway Center that evening.