Former Orlando Magic center Shaquille O’Neal wants Dwight Howard to return to the franchise this summer.
Howard is expected to enter free agency in the offseason in search of a max contract and is likely to leave Houston for pastures new.
However, O’Neal is keen to see the big man make a return to the place where he made his name despite not leaving on good terms.
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“I think it would be good for the city,” O'Neal said, per ESPN. “First of all, after the first time he left, letting a big young guy get away, it shouldn't happen a second time. All the puzzle [pieces] have to fit.”
Howard was drafted by the Magic in 2004 and after eight years in Florida, he was traded to the L.A. Lakers. Despite guiding the team to an NBA Finals appearance during his time, both he and the organisation parted on a sour note.
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“If you have respect for one another, I think you have to delete the word differences 'cause business is always going to be business,” O’Neal said. “The DeVos family [which owns the Magic] I have respect for. It can definitely work, as a general manager and owner we’re not just going to be bringing people back, we’re trying to get to that next level. If that guy can’t get us to the next level, then it
O’Neal, who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s 2016 class on Monday, also jumped ship from the Magic to the Lakers and it’s fair to say he’s never been the biggest fan of Howard.
Shaq’s softened stance could be attributed to the fact that Howard recently hired his agent Perry Rogers and per The Vertical’s Shams Charania, the two spoke before he made the decision and O’Neal sold him on Rogers.
The 30-year-old has struggled to reach the level he showed in Orlando and is enduring a frustrating season with the Rockets this term. He is averaging just 13.8 points and 11.8 rebounds, which are below his career averages. In Orlando, he put up an impressive 18.5 points, 13.1 rebounds and 2.2 blocks.
With James Harden dominating the ball in Houston, he has had fewer touches and is almost disregarded on offence on some occasions. This frustration is one of many reasons why it’s difficult to see him opting in to remain in Clutch City.
Orlando has a ton of cap space and will be keen to recruit an experienced free agent to lead their core group of youngsters such as Victor Oladipo, Elfrid Peyton, and Nikola Vucevic.
Whether the Magic fans are prepared to forgive and forget is an entirely different question altogether and one the team’s front office must weigh up.