The past is a bit messy for Dwight Howard.
The last year has been a series of public relations nightmares and miscues and missteps. Howard has gone from celebrated here to reviled villain. He cannot do anything right.
So even as Howard backtracks off of comments he made to KCAL in Los Angeles, claiming his statement that the Magic were a team full of players "nobody wanted" was meant, as he tells Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles, as a compliment to the team's never-ending underdog status, it seems like he has put his foot in his mouth, continually unaware of what effect his words will have on others' perception of him after this last year — let alone in Orlando.
Regardless of what Howard meant, it was a poor way of phrasing it.
And, again, regardless of Howard's intention his former teammates were not pleased with the statements made about them.
Jameer Nelson, the usually reserved Magic team captain, lashed back at Howard for those comments and told Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel that Howard's comments were extremely unprofessional. At some point, Howard needs to let the past be the past.
At some point, when are you [Dwight] gonna as a man, when are you going to take ownership and stay out of the media in a professional manner?
I would be less of a man to comment on certain things that people comment on about me and my teammates. We had a great run as a group, as core guys, and he was a part of it (reaching the 2009 Finals) and for him to say things about anybody in a negative manner, that’s up to him.
That’s his opinion. If that’s how he feels, that’s how he feels.
Hopefully Howard's retraction is followed by a phone call or text to Nelson with some apology. Howard has yet to apologize for anything he said despite the emotions that have run because of them.
As Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles noted to me last night, it speaks volumes that former teammates like Nelson and Rashard Lewis and even J.J. Redick took it the way they did and felt Howard needed to be quiet. Rashard Lewis' comments probably resonated most with Magic fans their current feelings about the Lakers center.
It's disrespectful more than anything. We helped Dwight become the player he was.
We made a good run. Hell, look at those (conference and division) banners hanging in the stands. They don’t say Dwight Howard on them…
So Lewis feels that way too. No amount of Howard backtracking seems enough for them. Best to stay quiet to the press then, Dwight.
Howard's comments about Orlando are in stock contrast with the comments J.J. Redick recently made about his former franchise to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Redick said he learned how personal the NBA business can be when he was traded away from Orlando and that he experienced some disappointment about being traded. He said he is happy to be back in the Playoff hunt but he said part of him wishes he could be part of this Magic rebuild.
My wife Chelsea and I built a life in Orlando. Listen, there was no anger [over the trade], but there was a little bit of disappointment.
Part of me wishes I could've been there my whole career and been part of the rebuilding, part of the turnaround, and gotten back to the finals in my 11th or 12th year. That's the romantic in me, the idealist.
So that is the difference between being a fan favorite and leaving Orlando on good terms and leaving Orlando on bad terms. Howard continues to remember the struggles in Orlando rather than the good times in his comments about his former franchise.