Howard should leave his recent behavior behind

Dwight Howard entered the NBA as a bright-eyed high school senior from Georgia. He carried his religion on his broad shoulders, even envisioning a cross on the NBA logo. And it seems like just yesterday, Howard entertained us with jovial dance routines and an impression of Orlando Magic coach -- Stan Van Gundy -- that left us in stitches.

While Howard still hits his Dougie on the hardwood, we're now discovering his alter ego -- a classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

With his evil Mr. Hyde side, Howard dragged us through months of indecision. First, he broke the hearts of Magic fans by requesting a trade to a larger market. But then he changed his mind in the final hour and stayed.

His alter ego also starred in one of the most awkward news conferences of all time, or what I like to call, the "Dwight of Our Lives" soap opera.

AP Photo/John Raoux

Dwight Howard's dysfunctional relationship with Stan Van Gundy should be a cautionary tale.

In an April 5 news conference, Howard came across as smug and evasive as he danced around questions about his alleged request of management to fire Van Gundy. Instead of just verifying or denying the comments, Howard proceeded to question the media's motives and sources. His condescending grin made him look more like the Joker than the friendly Howard we're familiar with.

That same night Howard proceeded to disappear in a 96-80 loss to the New York Knicks where he scored eight points, the first of which came with 3.5 seconds left in the third quarter. He faced a barrage of boos.

Two days later, Howard scored 20 points in an 88-82 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. Howard has missed the past two games because of back spasms and is 50-50 to return Friday against Atlanta.

Despite a drama-filled season, Howard is still the league's leading rebounder (14.5 a game) and the Magic would be a No. 6 seed if the playoffs began Thursday.

Nevertheless, Howard's recent flip-flop in play and in the media baffle me. It also makes me appreciate how LeBron James handled his free agency in 2010. James had the courage to make a grownup decision and take control of his future. Whether or not you approve of how he revealed his move to the Miami Heat from the Cleveland Cavaliers, it took resolve and maturity to make a decision; two things Howard has not demonstrated of late.

Howard showed little mettle by voicing his desire to leave Orlando then waffling over the next few months. He likely let himself be swayed by his peanut gallery of handlers at a time when he should've been the master of his fate.

"I have gotten some bad advice," Howard told "I apologize for this circus I have caused to the fans of our city. They didn't deserve none of this. I'm sorry from the bottom of my heart. I will do whatever I can to make this right and do what I was put in Orlando to do."

Howard's remarks suggest his decision to stay in Orlando was based on not hurting people's feelings rather than doing what was right for him. That's understandable because being hated by millions of fans is no fun. Even James said he was tired of being the bad guy and would like to kiss and make up with his home state. He even went as far as to say he would consider playing in Cleveland again.

Unlike James, Howard will get a second chance at redemption. He'll get to do the tango again when he becomes a free agent in July 2013. He will be able to decide his fate for the 2013-14 season.

The next time around it would behoove him to leave Jekyll and Hyde behind unless he desires his new role in the Magic's kingdom to be that of the villain.

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