For the first time since he was traded, Dwight Howard is set to return to the place that he played for the first eight years of his career.
The Los Angeles Lakers will visit the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night. The two clubs were involved in a four-team deal during the summer that saw Howard go to L.A., after the center had repeatedly asked to be dealt.
Despite demanding a trade and becoming one of the most hated players in the NBA, Howard says he isn’t concerned about the way he left Orlando.
"All that stuff is over with now," Howard said. "Today is a new day. Whatever happened in the past, I'm going to leave it behind me. Like I said, I have nothing but love for the fans here. They treated me well. It didn't end right. It didn't end the way we all wanted it to end, but I'm in a better place and everybody has to move on."
Howard’s recent play may have something to do with his positive attitude. He’s helped lead L.A. on a three-game winning streak, averaging 20 points and 16.3 rebounds during that stretch, and there has been little discussion about feuding or contract talks in recent weeks.
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It is not just the past week that has seen the Lakers play well. The Lakers have been hot since the end of January, winning 16 of their last 22 games.
The Magic have been one of the worst teams in the league, since dealing Howard. They had been a mainstay in the playoffs, but have the second-worst record in the NBA at 18-46.
Orlando hasn’t had many good moments this year, but one of the highlights of their 2012-2013 season came at the expense of Los Angeles. In the only meeting between the two clubs, the Magic walked out of Staples Center with a 113-103 victory. L.A. allowed 40 fourth-quarter points to the decided underdogs. Kobe Bryant scored 34 points, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
The Magic players may enter the game with extra motivation, but the oddsmakers don’t seem to think it will make much of a difference. The Lakers are 8.5-point favorites on the road, even though they have performed much better at home.
The contest is set to tip off at 7 p.m. eastern time. Viewers can watch a live stream online by purchasing NBA League Pass Broadband.
Prediction: The Magic will want to win this one for their fans, but they don’t have the talent to match up with L.A. After trading J.J. Redick, they don’t have much of a three-point threat, and Howard should have success against the Orlando defense.
Predicted Score: Los Angeles 110, Orlando 97