Los Angeles Lakers (33-31) vs. Orlando Magic (18-46)
Whoever makes the NBA schedule made sure to make this week particularly juicy with storylines. Tomorrow night Carmelo Anthony will play his first game at Denver since his trade to New York in 2011. Then Thursday night, Raymond Felton plays his first game in Portland since his disappointing season there last year.
All those seem to be undercards though to tonight's return.
Dwight Howard will play his first game back in Orlando after a year spent toying with the hearts of Magic fans before ultimately leaving them in a seeming fit of frustration and desire to go to a "bigger market." Magic fans are obviously not going to be very friendly to his return.
In fact, it is expected to get kind of nasty for Howard in his return. While plenty of people -- Howard, Stan Van Gundy -- believe everyone needs to move on, the first time a star returns to a jilted city it always about raw emotion. Orlando fans are granted some space to let their emotions out. There will be plenty of time to reflect on Howard's accomplishments in Orlando once time heals the wound.
There is still plenty to play for -- even for Orlando.
A win would prevent this Magic team from tying the record for fewest wins in franchise history and a win would mark the first win streak for the team since Dec. 19. That is about all you can play for when you are at the bottom of the standings.
The Lakers are a half game behind the Jazz for the final Playoff spot and every game matters for the Lakers from here on out.
The questions though revolve around Howard. Nobody knows how Howard will react to the reactions to the fans and the venom that will be directed at Howard throughout the evening. It should be good television.
Other Storylines to Watch
-One of the things that irritates Magic fans is that Howard has not expressed any real appreciation for the fans of Orlando without a qualifier. He spoke to the Orlando media for the first time after Los Angeles' shootaround this morning and thanked Magic fans for eight great years. BUT, he said he is in a better place now. Once again, Howard is trying but unintentionally throwing more fuel on the fire.
-Jameer Nelson and Dwight Howard came into the league together as rookies and were best friends. Then Howard began to let his stomach get bigger than his eyes and he wanted a new point guard. The two's relationship has obviously strained since then and the two have not been talking. Jameer Nelson said on the prospect of being friends with Howard again: Maybe after basketball? There is still some bad blood.
Boston Celtics (34-28) vs. Charlotte Bobcats (13-50)
It still feels odd to associate Michael Jordan, one of the great winners in NBA history is the owner of the Bobcats one of the great losers in the NBA right now. Charlotte followed up last year's disastrous season with this disastrous season. After seven wins in the first month and a half of the season, the Bobcats have had only six wins and are last int he NBA. Looks like Charlotte is playing the lottery again.
Washington Wizards (20-41) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (21-42)
Jan Vesely is still most known for kissing his girlfriend on Draft Night. At this point that is not a good thing for the young forward. Vesely has had plenty of his ups and downs. The Wizards are still optimistic that Vesely can become a solid player. Point guard A.J. Price said Vesely's only remaining hurdle is the mental aspect of the game. That is a big thing for young players to do. Vesely is still a work in progress but now is the time to let him play and figure it all out.
New Orleans Hornets (22-42) vs. Brooklyn Nets (37-27)
Not quite understanding why the Hornets signed Lou Amundson for the rest of the season. . . or why Amundson wanted to leave the Bulls to play with the Hornets. There should be plenty of playing time for him as the backup center behind Robin Lopez with New Orleans playing Anthony Davis mostly at the four. This game though is interesting for the matchup of the twin Lopezes against each other.
Atlanta Hawks (34-28) vs. Miami Heat (47-14)
How does 19 wins sound? It sounds good to Juwan Howard. He signed another 10-day contract and seems to be in for a second championship run. It is good to be Juwan Howard right now. Howard signed that big contract in Washington and had those opportunities missed in college with Michigan. Back-to-back championships sounds nice for the veteran forward.
Dallas Mavericks (29-33) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (32-29)
Once again, the Mavericks and Bucks are at the center of Brandon Jennings' future. Reports came out a few weeks ago that Dallas was interested in signing Jennings this summer. And the Bucks' financial future seems in a weird place with Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings both potentially not hitting free agency. It is unclear whether Jennings even wants to be in Milwaukee. They apparently never started negotiating this offseason at the rumored 4-year, $40 million mark. Jennings might think he is worth more.
San Antonio Spurs (49-15) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (21-39)
There was apparently some rumors going around that Tiago Splitter was considering heading off to Spain to play for Real Madrid and get a bigger role. But Splitter's strong play this season -- including last night's double double against the Thunder -- seems to point toward Splitter staying in the U.S. and in the NBA. Splitter has been a solid player off the bench playing behind and with Tim Duncan for this stellar team.
Memphis Grizzlies (42-19) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (29-33)
Damian Lillard turned in a stellar performance with 35 points against the Spurs on Friday. This one will be another difficult team to score points against. But Portland has to feel they need some wins to stay in the Playoff hunt. The team is not too far removed from the postseason picture.