When Dwight Howard steps off the plane in Orlando, he can expect to feel a chill in the air.
The dip in temperature will come from the thousands of cold shoulders that will fill the radio airwaves, Internet sites and Amway Arena seats when Orlando's prodigal son returns Tuesday wearing a purple-and-gold No. 12 jersey.
Howard played the first eight seasons of his career in central Florida, a place where he says he "grew up." He still owns a home there, has many friends and favorite spots, like a certain Waffle House.
But last season's "Dwightmare" soured many in Orlando. The season-long soap opera featured his trade demands, a back injury, a fallout with then-coach Stan Van Gundy and his decision to waive his early-termination clause before the trade deadline, leading many to believe he wanted to stay.
Then came the trade that sent Howard to the Lakers, reviving the nightmare Magic fans experienced when Shaquille O'Neal bolted for Los Angeles in 1996.
Howard knows returning to Orlando for Tuesday's game won't be easy for anyone.
"A lot of people are upset that I left, the way that I left," Howard said. "But I always think about how I spent eight great years in Orlando and it was an unbelievable time. It ended on a bad note, but that should never erase the years that we had of happiness. But like I said, it's over with now."
Orlando could be chilly for Lakers' Howard
Orange County Register | Mar 12