The countdown has begun.
No really, it has begun with Power 95.3 FM purchasing several electronic billboards counting down the days, hours and minutes until the Magic take on the Lakers at Amway Center. That would be Tuesday at 7 p.m. if you are curious. Before then, the Magic will play the 76ers at home and the Lakers will play the Bulls in Los Angeles.
The focus is not entirely on Dwight Howard's "homecoming." But like everything this year, it is extremely hard to escape Howard's presence. The Magic are seemingly making every move not only to recover from Howard's departure but also to avoid repeating those mistakes.
The wounds continue to be freshened up every time Howard opens his mouth. The time for talk will soon end and Magic fans will see the man in person.
Of course all that venom is being directed at Howard because so many feel like he should still be in Orlando and had no reason for leaving.
Chris Broussard of ESPN was one of the reporters who raise magic fans' ire for his seemingly constant negative reports regarding the Magic throughout the whole saga. He was one of the national reporters that seemed to have it in for Orlando and never gave the franchise a chance at keeping him.
Well, Broussard now is looking at Dwight Howard and how he can rebuild his legacy. His ultimate conclusion is that Howard should stay with the Lakers and build from teh ground up again in his new surroundings.
Truth is, he should never have left Orlando. He should never have even thought about it. He had it great there. He was king. His coach was great and his teammates were good enough to help him take down James and the Cleveland Cavaliers and reach the NBA Finals at one point. Deep down inside, Howard has to realize this.
He wasn't happy in Orlando because the market wasn't big enough and he didn't have any great perennial All-Star teammates. Now he's in one of the largest, greatest markets in the league with a roster full of MVPs and presumptive Hall of Famers and he's still not happy. He wasn't happy with Stan Van Gundy's coaching. Now he's not happy with Mike D'Antoni's (understandably, but still). When Howard was in Orlando, complaining about needing a second star, one of the stars he longed to play with was Steve Nash. So what's the problem now?
Magic fans probably are like: "Finally!" That does not help the team now though as the franchise has plunged to the bottom of the NBA standings, partially out of design perhaps to get a better draft pick.
In December 2011 when Howard informed the world of his desire to be traded, the Magic and Howard acted like it was not a real trade demand. And thus began Howard's will-he, won't-he saga that tore apart the Magic fan base and left the once beloved superstar on a one-way ticket out of town and universal ire among the community.
I put it lightly.
Of course, through it all, Howard always had one out to make everything OK. And that would have been to make good on the promises of loyalty and stay in Orlando.
Judging by how Howard has been up and down in Los Angeles and has not quite embraced his new role with his new team, there may be elements of his situation in Orlando that he misses. The big fish in the small pond made Howard universally adored and he soaked it all up. There are no marketing opportunities if people generally do not like the guy.
And Howard, despite all the protestations throughout his career, is not LeBron James and never will have the marketing opportunities that a player like James has.
It is all a little too late.
Howard said he believes Orlando fans need to move on. That is easy for him to say, he is not living with the ravages to the franchise that he wreaked. And all the anger is an appreciation for everything he did for eight years in the franchise and how he seemingly threw it all away in an instant.
Perhaps, Howard realizes this too and is trying to move on with his new reality himself. He wanted something bigger, but had to leave to realize how good things were in Orlando for him.
Tuesday will be a big part in moving forward for everyone. All we can do is think about what could have been if everyone made good decisions.