Douglas Jones/USA TODAY
Experience matures us.
We hope to learn from our mistakes and become smarter as we get older. All we can do is move forward and reflect on the lessons learned from the past.
Dwight Howard, who will make his second return to Orlando in another team's uniform later this week, has certainly done that. He spent a dradful year filled with rumors he never put to rest and indecision he could never overcome in that final year in Orlando. He was both hero for playing things out and seemingly giving Orlando every chance and then villain as it became clear the Magic could not deliver for him and he would pack his things and leave.
On the court, his lone year in Los Angeles was a disaster. He handled his free agency business better — there was one more report of indecision as he flew back to L.A. to inform Jim Buss he would sign with the Rockets instead of the Lakers — and he has quietly gone about his business for a suddenly resurgent Rockets team.
The media during the trade deadline and certainly now afterward are building the case for Carmelo Anthony to do much the same thing Howard did and bolt New York for greener pastures as the Knicks devolve into complete chaos.
Howard spoke to Sam Amick of USA TODAY and revealed he is giving some advice to Anthony as he handles his free agency. Howard said this on the record:
If you don't win, you're not going to get all the (off-court) stuff you want anyway. I saw that last year (in Los Angeles). I was in the biggest market for the NBA, and we lost, so those (companies) aren't going to be coming to you for losing.
When I was in Orlando, a small market, and we were winning. I was very popular with a lot of different deals on the table. So it's moreso about winning, and you've got to put yourself in a position to where you're winning basketball games and you're having fun doing it. Losing is not fun, and Melo wants to win.
This is the part where Magic fans say, "Duh."
These were many of the arguments Orlando fans put up to defend their city and their franchise. Winning cures all ills. Of course, that Magic team Howard left was not going to be winning much. And despite rumorsconnecting Orlando to several stars, Howard and Otis Smith never could deliver on them. That championship potential was left unrealized.
As an exercise in maturity and mending the bridges with one of the great players in the team's history, this is certainly a positive sign. Howard appears to be admitting some mistake in assuming Brooklyn or Los Angeles would be greener pastures for him off the court. Really it is on-the-court success that drives interest and marketing opportunities.
Howard will return to Orlando on Wednesday with the Rockets. It is still unclear whether the Magic will air a highlight package for Howard during the first quarter as they have for former Magic players travelling through the NBA. Howard will most likely still get roundly booed.
After all, the Magic may have made out best in the Dwight Howard deal as they go through this rebuild. But you never win when you trade a player of Howard's talent. The franchise has had to spend the last two seasons clearing the decks and sitting at the bottom of the standings.
The venom should be less than it was last year against the Lakers. And it will decrease with each time Howard visits Orlando in another team's colors. Eventually Howard will be welcomed back and recognized as one of the franchise's greatest.
Time has the benefit of providing perspective.