Orlando Magic: Dwight Howard is a poor option in return to glory

May 10, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) is restrained by referee Danny Crawford (48) in the first quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers in game three of the second round of the NBA Playoffs. at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
May 10, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) is restrained by referee Danny Crawford (48) in the first quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers in game three of the second round of the NBA Playoffs. at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Dwight Howard is reportedly gauging the Orlando Magic’s interest as he searches a max contract. As the team rebuilds, his return is going backwards.

Dwight Howard had a short but successful stint atop the league as the best center in the NBA during his time with the Orlando Magic. But, memories exist in the past, and those times cannot be resurrected.

Dwight Howard cannot be.

His career has declined, his body has failed him and any notions of him being anything like the player he was prior to his departure really should be stricken as absurd.

Howard is a shadow of the player he once was, and James Harden is hardly to blame. Howard’s once-overwhelming athleticism is no longer a tool he has to rely on. His lack of diligence in developing any array of post moves has made his declining years ever more accelerated.

Howard at one point seemed to have the world in his palm, the next great big man of a new era of basketball. Only Shaquille O’Neal citing Andrew Bynum as the league’s best provided any dissent from the consensus he was the league’s best center. No dispute.

But Howard’s decline is just the beginning of a very dirty mess Orlando should really want no part of when he enters free agency. He left this franchise in a tailspin and exited with a lack of class that leaves most fans still irked today.

That pain has hardly been forgotten.

And only in some respects is that thing even forgivable.

Howard currently hopes it is. According to a report from Ric Bucher of Bleacher/Report, Howard has sent some feelers through back channels to see if the Magic are interested in re-acquiring him with that cap room they created. Bucher reports it is unclear how the Magic feel about the interest.

With Orlando though needing a franchise-changing player and max cap room to spend, it has been easy for fans to let their imaginations run wild. Those hoping for a reunion after restocking talent got nostalgic for the old times.

Regardless of where the Magic go, they cannot turn down any option. But when it comes to Howard they should be wary. And wary because of their history.

The pain of that final Dwight-marish year should not be forgotten.

Adam Papageorgiou of Magic Basketball Online draws an odd, but effective parallel between Dwight Howard and a deranged, crazy ex-wife. It may feel nice in this low moment to go to something familiar.

But the reasons things did not work out to begin with are still all there.

Sometimes, one must think beyond the basketball court to really get a proper handle of a situation like this one. That is the case here.

Pagageorgiou cited Howard’s lack of maturity both in his time in Orlando and elsewhere since.

"You bring Dwight back to Orlando, and he’ll believe he has full power over the franchise. Then you’re right back in the same horrendous situation that existed in 2011 and 2012. An environment where Dwight holds a ton of of power. That’s definitely not working out for LeBron and the Cavaliers at this moment. And again, Dwight isn’t anywhere close to LeBron’s playing level, and the Magic roster as a whole isn’t up to par with the current Cavs roster which doesn’t appear close to winning a championship."

Moreover, even from a basketball standpoint, the move may not even be a net upgrade. Nikola Vucevic has his shortcomings but has many good years ahead of him. Is it not better to roll with a player still making his ascent, or taking a declining player who offers little more than some nostalgic glance at a Finals appearance now nearly a full seven years ago?

Adding to that the quandary only further still, he is a player who will command a max contract without “max production.” Howard is not getting any younger and those injuries continue to dog him. What player has miraculously rediscovered his youth past age 30?

The fact is Magic fans are desperate for success.

The question is how desperate?

Are they desperate enough to write off pride and character and take back the man who gutted the franchise? Are they desperate enough to sell their soul to root for a player who many feel sold them out, taking back those burned jerseys and loud boos?

Beyond basketball, these feelings and sentiments play a role in deciding whether to go after Howard. Basketball only is an entertaining product when a fan base has a team it wants to cheer for and rally behind. Fans do not show up to cheer for guys they despise. And forgiveness only goes so far.

This also is not like welcoming home a prodigal son from Akron, Ohio.

Dwight Howard grew up in Atlanta and has not expressed to this day a desire to play for the Atlanta Hawks. Orlando is not his home — he sold his Longwood estate in 2014 — and the Magic really should hold no other appeal if not for the fact it is the only place he has tasted success of any sort.

Howard may now have realized he needed Orlando more than it needed him. Ric Bucher of Bleacher/Report suggested as much in his original report that Howard was trying to gauge the Magic’s interest.

The Magic helped make him a star player, a guy who won the league’s Defensive Player of the Year three times and waltzed his way past LeBron James en route to the NBA Finals in 2009.

In all, the cold and bitter end to the Howard saga should be reason in and of itself not to trust this team to his leadership. The further questions about his maturity only lend further weight to the notion Howard is no such leader at all.

Howard may still be able to contribute defensively, but nowhere near the level he was in Orlando. He is nowhere near the same player. If the Magic opt to go after him this summer, they would be bringing him in with all the baggage without the same production on the court.

That really is not worth it. Not to the fans. And fans are the reason Howard was here. They buy the tickets.

Do not make them pay to watch a guy who has acted this way, even if it dubiously could improve the team. It likely would not.

And then the Magic would have an expensive mistake the fan base may never be able to reconcile with. The only thing worse than failing to spend the cap room is spending it on the wrong guy.

Do not expect the Magic to bend over backwards to accommodate a once-superstar player who never kept his end of the bargain. They will do their due diligence and make a decision.

Considering it all, Howard does not deserve the Magic nor its fan base. Not without more contrition and more maturity. Something he still does not seem to have all together.

Next: Do the Orlando Magic need more from Victor Oladipo?

Head elsewhere, number 12.