Dwight Howard will make his first appearance in Orlando since leaving for the Los Angeles Lakers, an occasion that merited the kind of jam-packed, wacky press conference he became known for with the Magic.
He started with a message of peace and love.
“I’ve said it plenty of times. I have nothing but love for the fans here,” Howard said (see video here). “They made me into the player that I am today, and I’ll always be thankful for that. I came here a boy and left a man. It’s made me a better person being here. Thank you to all the fans who supported me even throughout all the bad times.”
Howard spoke after the Lakers’ shootaround and took his sweet time getting over to the 50 or so reporters — which didn’t go unnoticed. “Longest Dwight’s ever worked on his game after practice,” Steve Nash cracked.
Howard said he hadn’t returned since he had back surgery last spring.
“I was happy to come back, see my house, go to Waffle House, get a good meal,” he said. “That was fun. I was happy about that.”
And then the message became one of World Peace.
“I gotta get some TV time. All these cameras,” Metta World Peace said, barging in like a good teammate to take some of the heat off Howard. (All that’s needed was a Stan Van Gundy cameo.) “Keeping talking to Dwight ya’ll. My Twitter’s @mettaworldpeace. Follow me on Twitter. Follow Dwight. I need a million followers. Keep talking, though.”
With a billboard keeping track of the time until he leaves town again, Howard’s reception isn’t likely to be warm, although he says it’s just another game — “business as usual.” Kobe Bryant was asked about whether it would be an emotional return for Howard.
“Emotional?! I’ll talk to him,” Bryant said. “Just go out there and bust [their posterior]. Show ’em what they’re missing. [laughter] Save the emotional [stuff] for when you retire.”