Originally posted on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 3/13/13

The Sunshine State, the place where the beaches meet the orange groves, where Parrot-heads and tourists were born, where retirees come to die. Right in the heart of this great state is the former home of Lakers star Dwight Howard. The place where basketball was left to die in the Florida heat. In the biggest basketball move of the offseason, Dwight was traded to the Lakers and so ended another reign of basketball semi-greatness in Orlando. The town that lost Shaq had lost another star in Dwight. Superman had fled the scene, twice. Children cried, women wept, and men groaned as the Lakers stole away another star. Magic stock has hit an all time low, the House that Dwight Built needs a new tenant, and central Florida basketball is on life support. But wait, a day that was circled on calendars all over Florida was approaching. March 12th, the long awaited return of Dwight to the Amway Center. In a building that rarely fills half its seats this season was suddenly expecting 19,000. Excitement was up, the Magic were ready for the ultimate showdown with the now infamous former Floridian. Dwight was calling his former teammates ‘the guys no one else wanted’ and old teammates were firing back. Recently traded J.J. Redick even said, “I would be more surprised when Dwight starts taking responsibility.” The stage was set for an eventful return. Photo Credit: John Raoux/AP As tip-off approached, fans were pumped in Amway on Tuesday night. As Dwight dunked the ball in pre-game warm-ups, the crowd was circling like sharks at a frenzy, and at long last they had their chance to strike. As Paul Porter reported the intro the crowd knew so well, “The 6’11’’ center from Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy number 12, Dwight Howard.” The rafters that once hoped to hold a champion banner were now rocking with the booing of thousands of fans. Dwight took it with a grin and went to work. It seemed for three quarters that the basketball gods would give Magic fans what they wanted, a win over their new arch-nemesis. The team consisting of the players nobody wanted was playing like they had something to prove and even though the present looks bleak the future has hope. You can see the pieces of a future contender in Orlando. Nikola Vucevic and Arron Afflalo represent the future of a Magic team built on the pieces of the Dwight trade and Orlando’s new number 12 is making noise in a quiet season. Tobias Harris added 17 points to the rematch and represented a new era present in Orlando. Ironically, in a symbolic moment, Magic point guard Jameer Nelson caught Dwight as he was falling to the floor. Jameer was holding him up by the arms like you a hold a friend when they fall during a ‘trust’ test. As fans yelled, “drop him!” Jameer gently lowered him down and walked away; a short silent treatment that screamed oh so loudly. But behold, it was all for not. Three hours, 39 points, and 16 rebounds later, Dwight emerged from the Amway Center with the last laugh. The Magic fell 106 to 97 and gave their fans an even stronger desire to get ‘em the next time. The Lakers left victorious and fans were left to ponder the future of Orlando basketball. Maybe the draft will be good to Orlando once again, and the Amway Center will be the home of a basketball great, and maybe that star will actually stick around. But one thing was clear on that Orlando Tuesday night. Fans were in no mood to forgive Dwight Howard just yet. Jerseys that once held his name now had duct tape X’s and ‘Coward’ written across them. The only Howard apparel proudly worn was in purple and gold. Orlando’s ESPN 580 was giving out posters before the game that contained ‘Dwight Chants’ with such gold as ‘Dee-Vah’ and ‘Loy-Al.’ The city that once hated Shaq now had a new man to despise. Unfortunately for Magic fans, Goliath left with a dented ego and a win while David was left to continue picking up the pieces. -Reynolds

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