ORLANDO – Dwight Howard remembers his days in Orlando and he's getting nostalgic. In the first eight years of his career, Howard helped transform the magic of another small market team into an NBA title contender.
But it is the memories that have made him and his teammates from the place that are still close to his heart. The community events in the city. The BBQ evenings with players and fans. Stay in the house of Rashard Lewis. The guard, who was standing near the Amway Center's Legends Suite on Friday morning, scolded Markieff Morris for kicking a basketball off the scoreboard.
Howard smiled and pointed to the guard, and she waved back.
"The stuff is what I do not like to see," Howard said before the Washington Wizards' match against Magic on Friday (4-7).
When critics are shouting for rebuilding and asking fans to trade everyone, they should use the Orlando Magic as a case study and think again. When the "Dwightmare" ended and the superstar left the city, the franchise left.
No recently remembered NBA team has struggled to rebuild its franchise star, such as Magic, who had the worst win in the NBA over the seven years without Howard. Since the 2012-13 season, the first without Howard, Orlando has gone through five coaches and two managing directors. The team's 161-342 record over the past seven seasons has been marked by six high lotteries and other inexperienced players mixed with a variety of journeymen.
The newest coach, Steve Clifford, has a connection to the franchise's golden past when The Magic competed in the NBA Finals in 2009, and he's not the guy who distributes ribbons for good performance. After the magic had lost to the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night when the starters played well, but the bank could not score, Clifford cut off the question of a reporter, whom he interpreted as an attempt to find a silver lining.
"To say," Let's find out what's good. "Clifford told local reporters after the game," Let's not. Let's just tell the story, okay? The bank was embarrassing. It was embarrasing. That's it."
Clifford asked no further questions and left the press conference.
On his last visit to his first basketball house, Howard was asked if it was difficult for him to see the current state of magic.
"On the competitor side, you do not want to see a team that's in the same division you're successful in, but overall, you always want the team you're playing for is always successful. Especially the players who get through and the people you know, "Howard said. "So I would never say anything bad about this team or this city. More the city than the team. I will always be grateful for this organization, but in this city we have had some difficult times and I really had a chance to learn Orlando. I know pretty much this whole area. "
The years of the Shaquille O Neal-Penny Hardaway were a blessing for Orlando, but after the duo broke up, the city had to wait until a smiling high school kid came in as No. 1 in 2004. Howard dominated as a premiere center in the NBA, but his biggest act as "Superman" restored Orlando as an NBA destination.
"We always talk about the team we had here. How we committed to winning, how we wanted to improve this city, and how we were trying to change the perception of Orlando Magic, "said Howard. "Teams came here, the focus was:" Let's go to Disneyland and Universal Studios and have fun, because the magic would be easy. "And we wanted to change that."
In the season 2011/12 Howard but wanted to change something himself. He requested a trade and the following season was called "Dwightmare". As Howard moved to the Los Angeles Lakers, he moved on to the Houston Rockets, the Atlanta Hawks, the Charlotte Hornets, and now the Wizards Magic has stayed in the throats of a remodel that has no end in sight.
The years did not seem to heal old wounds. Along the Amway Center corridor leading to the Magic Changing Room, oversized photos of current franchise players and pillars, mostly from the final teams of 1995 and 2009, line the Wall. Although even Bo Outlaw and Hedo Turkoglu have framed pictures, Howard's picture is striking.
However, the first portrait on the wall is the face of the franchise's youngest big man.
Mo Bamba – a 7-foot footer – has built a kinship with Howard. On the night of the draft Howard sent a message of congratulation to Bamba. The beginner still "beats" Howard occasionally with questions.
Together with Bamba, the magicians are trying to cement the franchise to Aaron Gordon, who proves to be more than just a flashy tint, and Jonathan Isaac, who has been banned from the Wizards for an ankle injury on Friday. The three players are all under the age of 24 – the age when Howard was won by Magic after winning the Eastern Conference in 2009. Orlando was in love with Magic and everything seemed so much easier for the franchise and its superstar.
"That's one thing I'll always miss, those moments were right there," Howard said. "You can never get them back and those were some of the best moments of our lives."