Dwight Howard seems ready to come home to Orlando

Dwight Howard has had a decade since his exit from Orlando too. And it seems like Howard is now ready to give his mea culpa and try to make amends with Orlando Magic fans. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Dwight Howard has had a decade since his exit from Orlando too. And it seems like Howard is now ready to give his mea culpa and try to make amends with Orlando Magic fans. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

This weekend was a sad occasion for the Orlando Magic and their family.

As the team confirmed last week, Stan Van Gundy’s wife Kim suddenly passed away. The Van Gundy family had a celebration of life ceremony over the weekend.

Through the tragedy though came a reunion.

Many members of the 2009 and 2010 team came back to Orlando to support their former coach. As is often the case, tragedies like this have the effect of bringing people closer together.

There was Jameer Nelson. And Vince Carter. And Marcin Gortat. And Ryan Anderson. And team operations manager Sid Powell. And former assistant coach Patrick Ewing.

And the prodigal son of Orlando, Dwight Howard.

Nelson shared the group photo of Magic alumni on his Instagram and the photo quickly spread among Magic fans, engendering warm memories of one of the best eras in Magic history.

Time has a way of putting old grievances aside and allowing the good of relationships to come through as opposed to the bad. Especially in a heated and competitive business like the NBA.

Dwight Howard returned to Orlando to support Stan Van Gundy in a time of need and mourning. He left with some introspective thoughts on his time with the Orlando Magic and perhaps a desire to return to his basketball home.

Howard has not been in Orlando very much since his bitter departure in 2012. Even mentioning his name in a positive light is enough to elicit various reactions from Magic fans. Howard has never really tried to make amends or give a proper thank you to the place he called home for eight years and built the basis for his best individual run and likely his Hall-of-Fame candidacy.

Communal mourning indeed has a way of bringing things together and giving everyone a perspective on life.

Howard went on Instagram and gave an emotional thank you to Orlando as the moment clearly made him introspective on his life and his career, especially as his playing career draws near its close. It is worth a read in full:

The important part is below:

"“[L]ooking back on everything, I never knew what it really meant when the [M]agic ownership told me they built an arena for me. What that stood for, what they saw in me, what you [Stan Van Gundy] saw in me; that I wasn’t quite seeing in myself. You all saw me as a legend before I made any strides to become Legendary, and I am forever grateful for that.“At that particular time, all I could see was my own ego, but that is why life experiences are the greatest teachers.  Even in the midst of sadness, aving a chance to go back this past weekend where it all started was so amazing. I really missed this beautiful city and y’all.“Even though coming to Orlando at a time like this brought so much pain. Having us come back together just made me appreciate all the amazing moments that make this my home, despite the miscommunication or trials we’ve been through.”"

That is probably the most introspective public statement Howard has made about both his relationship with Van Gundy and his relationship with Orlando since the bitter end and the Dwight-Mare of 2012.

Magic fans know well the story of that disastrous season.

The Magic’s championship window quickly closed after the flameout in the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals. Orlando suddenly struggled to get out of the first round despite Herculean efforts.

By the time the Orlando Magic lost their first-round series to the Atlanta Hawks in 2011, the whispers of Howard agitating to leave had already begun.

That is a familiar rhythm to how superstars operate today. But it was a new thing that summer after LeBron James orchestrated his move to the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010.

The impending NBA lockout that kept the Magic from communicating with their star only worsened the problem.

So too did the Magic’s history of losing Shaquille O’Neal back in 1996. The team was not going to lose a generational center for nothing again. And if there was any hope of keeping him, it seemed the Magic were going to hold onto that meal ticket.

That created a perfect storm for a disastrous contract year for Howard.

Howard was never truly resolute in leaving — even waiving his early termination option at the trade deadline in 2012 and lasting to the end of the year before a major back injury (the first injury of his career) ended his season early. The Magic did not handle the situation well.

Neither did Howard. And he quickly alienated fans who had previously adored him after he promised to stay during a Labor Day bar-b-que he hosted in Orlando (he requested his trade once the lockout lifted in December) and then professed loyalty when he waived his early termination option in late February.

Everyone’s emotions were spent.

In the meantime, Van Gundy took the unusual step of publicly acknowledging a rumor that pretty much everyone knew: Howard had requested a coaching change. That was a misstep on Van Gundy’s part that made it clear the team had to let go of its most successful coach at the end of the season and the situation was beyond saving.

The Magic fired Van Gundy that summer. General manager Otis Smith resigned. The team hired a new GM and resolved to embark on a full rebuild. They traded Howard to the hated Los Angeles Lakers in August of that season.

Never helping Dwight Howard’s case, the Magic entered a rebuild that still has not quite re-established itself — although receiving the No. 1 pick in Paolo Banchero has created the likelihood of a brighter future.

Maybe that is what will make it OK for fans to let the healing begin and to welcome Howard back home. O’Neal did not get that welcome until Howard’s ascendance (or until Magic fans did not have to keep backing Howard when the two big men needled each other in the press).

Time eventually does heal all wounds.

Howard has continued playing, bouncing from team to team and landing now in Taiwan. His NBA days are likely done. And he has grown up and matured since then. Clearly, he has understood he made his mistakes in his exit from Orlando just as it was clear the organization made its own mistakes too.

It has been 10 years and bygones can indeed be bygones. There are far too many good times and important moments to be angry over one bad year and messy exit. It is the NBA, it is always transitory.

Howard and Van Gundy long ended whatever professional squabbles they had. Van Gundy has only spoken highly of Howard since re-entered the league. Howard donated to the campaign to raise revenue for schools in Seminole County. The two have continued to support each other.

The heat of battle can make people do crazy things.

All that is left to do is to remember the good times and welcome him back as the all-time legend he is. Howard will be in the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame. And he will get his recognition in the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame.

Next. All-2000s Orlando Magic Team. dark

This may be the first step for Howard to get the forgiveness he should have from Magic fans so we can celebrate the 2009 team properly.