Dwight Howard returns to Orlando Tuesday night to visit an arena that he helped build, and the soundtrack to his return home is expected to be a public bath of boos.
"In Orlando, I handled a lot of stuff the wrong way," Howard admitted to 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.”
Howard has been able to laugh at some of the more recent criticism leveled after his departure from Orlando. Prior to Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bulls, Howard mentioned that the Orlando Sentinel had a song for him.
He wasn’t upset. In fact, he was smiling and wanted to show reporters the song. He said he liked the parody and joked that he would even buy it on iTunes.
Whether Howard’s ability to laugh at criticism is a new-found talent is unclear, but he has been public about laughing at jokes based around his shortcomings.
Only a couple days earlier, Howard showed reporters his favorite picture to laugh at. It was a picture of Howard at the free-throw line with a brick transposed in place of the basketball. He was unable to control his laughter when passing around the picture pregame, and Triple Threat caught him laughing at the same picture a few hours later following a thrilling victory over the Toronto Raptors.
Tuesday, however, will be a whole different type of experience. Howard said he does not know what it will be like, but he predicted it would be “crazy.”
“I really love that city,” Howard said about Orlando. “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.”
He said that his father would be in attendance on Tuesday, and he was hoping to get Miss Marsha, a local resident who worked at his favorite Waffle House, a ticket to the game. Howard’s father advised him to wear earplugs, but a decision had not been made on whether he would take the precaution.
Easily forgotten, Tuesday’s game is also a homecoming for forward Earl Clark, who was included in the Howard trade to Los Angeles. Clark had a unique take on Howard’s return.
“I might get more love than Dwight on this trip,” Clark laughed. “I think that Dwight’s coming back is going to be a packed house.”
Regardless of how he is received before the game, Howard's play during the game is the only aspect the center can control. And when it comes to on-the-court play, Howard is playing as well as he's played all season long.