When Dwight Howard put on that show last season -- demanding to be traded from the Orlando Magic, but eventually signing an extension with the team before requesting a trade again -- he did it in the right town. No diss to Orlando and its street cred, but it's the Mickey Mouse of sports cities when it comes to fan treament.
Former Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy was on WYGM in Orlando discussing what could be expected when Howard returns to Amway Arena for the first time since being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers over the summer. He's saying there's going to be a mixture of cheers and boos, but that Howard really deserves a ton of credit for his eight years of work in Orlando.
It's a good thing he isn't returning to a spot like Philly, Chicago, New York, Boston or any place that covets its superstars in a significant and visceral way. The folks in Boston toe the line of mental illness when it comes to their squads; the folks in Chicago have gone through the Cubs and post-Jordan eras with the Bulls. And Philly? They can be all kinds of rude, whether you're an R&B singer or some big, jolly NBA center trying to find his way.
Here's more from Van Gundy:
"I don't really know how he will be greeted. It would be interesting to see how he is greeted. I think he should be greeted very well (by Magic fans). He had eight very good years here. It's an interesting phenomenon to me. When a player like Dwight wants to leave, people get all upset about it. They say he's not loyal and everything else. But when a player like J.J. Redick wants to stay and the Magic decide it's in their best interest to trade him, then there's no uproar about that. It's really not fair. The guy, while he was here, did a great job for the organization and took it ot unprecedented heights. It had been a long time since Shaq that the Magic had won. Dwight was a key part of bring them back - certainly not the only one, but a key part - and I would think the fans should reward that and give him a very nice ovation. I think what he'll get is a mixture. I think he'll get some people standing and cheering and he'll hear his share of boos, too."
Meanwhile, Dwight says he's going to start listening to "boo tapes." Howard is probably going to carry it just fine when he gets out there but the PG-13 treatment he gets from the Disney crowd won't compare to the what would've happened if he violated one of your major sports cities.