The script says that Dwight Howard needs to hang the head, issue the apologies and offer a mea culpa to the Magic before he turns heel and forges his legend in Los Angeles.
It appears that Howard is trying to do all that, in the way that Howard has often tried to communicate his view of the world before: by sharing his thoughts at length. Howard talked with USA Today for a weekend article that touched on his messy departure from Orlando, his current state with the Lakers and what he hopes to be in Los Angeles.
Howard’s words hit all the key points — but they don’t appear to do much to refute the narrative that he doesn’t care how badly he left things in Orlando, and that he is only looking ahead to his self-interest in Los Angeles. With Howard and the Lakers playing the Magic on Tuesday night, Howard’s make-nice words could just put Orlando fans in a much sourer mood.
Howard reportedly turned down an interview with the Orlando Sentinel in the run-up to this week’s game, which will only add to the perception that Howard is making an apology tour out of obligation rather than heartfelt regret for how his time in Orlando ended. Still, he hit all the key points in talking to USA Today, saying he was sorry for how he left, that he felt the messy public perception was due to him trying to please everyone and that he thought the whole situation has helped him grow up and be a better person.
“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.”
Howard said he’s learned from the backlash from his decision to leave Orlando — and how that process was often portrayed with high drama. He said the criticism has pushed him to mature.
“If it didn’t happen, I’d be stuck in my ways,” he said. “I would never change, and then it would be a lot worse. For all this stuff to happen, for me to sit back and see and evaluate myself and what I could’ve done better and realize that I needed to make a change, I’m getting better. I’m growing up. I’m maturing.”
Perhaps the most interesting line, however, was in the middle of the story, as Howard talked about his future in Los Angeles. With the Lakers stumbling this season and Howard struggling just to find his role with the team, much less his place in the greater stratum of Los Angeles’ big names and heroes, one goal that Howard has written out for himself for this year stuck out among the rest. The USA Today article noted that it was taped to his mirror, written in black marker in Howard’s handwriting.
“Be an icon. Be iconic,” it said.
Rarely does an icon feel the need to tell himself to be an icon, but the way Howard’s NBA story has played out, it sounds about right that he’s writing himself notes telling himself who he needs to be.
As the Lakers continue to struggle toward a playoff spot and Howard finds instant legend status hard to obtain, there’s no doubt that he’s regretting the way his path has wound since his first ill-fated trade demand in Orlando. But his regrets appear to be just that — regrets that things haven’t gone better, not regrets over his role in how the situations have played out. Howard’s version of “growing up” seems to still include a lot of Howard, icon or not.
Chances are that Magic fans will be able to pick up on that. On Tuesday night, this rift may get even deeper.