Dwight Howard's long-awaited return to Orlando as a visitor is upon us.
Much like the papal conclave, it's just a waiting game until Howard takes the court for pregame warmups. Let's save the suspense, he's going to get booed and booed and booed.
"I don't know what it's going to be like," Howard said on Tuesday.
Yes, he does.
And Howard deserves every taunt, jeer, barb and unpleasantry that hits his ears.
There will be seminars taught one day about Howard and how not to leave a franchise. That could be the title. He screwed with this organization, city and fan base so much so that everyone will be an Orlando Magic fan on Tuesday night except for Jack Nicholson and Dyan Cannon. Even the Lakers Girls will secretly be rooting for the Magic.
To sum up, Howard led the team to the NBA Finals in 2009 and lost to the Lakers. Two years later, he demanded a trade, saying the Magic hadn't done enough to build a championship contender. Howard met with team officials and backed off his trade demands.
With things not getting any better and with Howard attempting to get coach Stan Van Gundy fired (according to Van Gundy), the Magic prepared to trade him at last season's deadline, Howard signed an amendment to his contract to stay with Orlando through the 2012-13 season.
"It was a circus every day," guard Jameer Nelson said on Monday.
The Magic still sent him packing in the offseason and now, Howard returns.
"I said what I had to say. I have nothing but love. I came here a boy and I left a man," Howard said.
In his one season with the Lakers, Howard hasn't shied away from still sticking it to the Magic.
In an interview with Los Angeles' KCAL, Howard said, when asked about his bad reputation, which has manifested itself in this tumultuous season with L.A., "my team in Orlando was a team full of people that nobody wanted."
Nelson, a teammate of Howard's for his entire career in Orlando, responded in the Orlando Sentinel by saying, "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?"
Left a man, huh?
Rashard Lewis, another member of those Magic teams, and now on the Miami Heat, said Wednesday, "It's disrespectful more than anything. We helped Dwight become the player he was. We made a good run. Hell, look at those banners hanging in the stands. They don't say Dwight Howard on them."
Howard apologized and said he meant his comments to describe his team in more of an underdog role. Apparently, Howard lost command of the English language on camera, but handled things a little better in an interview with USA Today.
"In Orlando, I handled a lot of stuff the wrong way," he told USA Today. "If any of those people in Orlando are upset with how I did it, I apologize for the way I handled it and the way it was handled in the media.
"I really just got caught up in wanting to please everybody else. I really love that city. That was the hardest thing to do was to leave that city because I basically grew up there. That was my whole life. Orlando was it. I did not want to leave all that behind - the city, just everything about it."
Howard can apologize all he wants. By taking a shot at the Magic just a week or so ago, he showed he doesn't care about the organization, his former teammates or the fan base.
Free agents are exactly that, they are free to do what they choose. Had Howard just left via free agency, instead of the fiasco he created with trade demands, then wanting to stay, then wanting to go to Brooklyn, Magic fans couldn't be upset with him. He put his time in and earned the right. Sure, there would be booing, but Howard's booing on Tuesday stems from more than just leaving the team.