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Tonight, Dwight Howard returns to the house he built, Amway Center, for a second time as an opposing player.
In his first go-around as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, Howard put up a dominant 39-point, 16-rebound, three-block performance against the Orlando Magic while being showered by boos all night long. It was Howard’s best game in his lone season with the Lakers. During the offseason, Howard walked away from L.A. after a nightmare season and signed with the Houston Rockets as an unrestricted free agent.
Even though he’s now with the Rockets, the reception Howard will receive from Magic fans likely won’t change. He’ll still get booed, though he may get peppered with a few cheers when the Magic honor him with a video tribute during a timeout in the first quarter.
What has changed is the perception surrounding the Howard mega-deal. When the Magic made the trade in August 2012, they were widely criticized for not receiving enough assets (namely a star) in return. Then Howard left the Lakers, Andre Iguodala left the Denver Nuggets, Andrew Bynum left the Philadelphia Sixers (after not playing a single game due to injuries), and the Magic won the trade by default.
Even though it’s been over a year and a half since Howard was dealt, the impact of the four-team blockbuster trade is still reverberating in Orlando. In fact, the Magic’s haul is looking better with each passing day.