Dwight Howard received a thunderous ovation when he was introduced Friday night, a crescendo that was never approached throughout the game, which became almost secondary to his presence.
The fans at Amway Arena thanked him for his loyalty, which he showed the day before when he stunned most everyone by waiving his ability to become a free agent this summer.
His decision pulled the plug on a trade the Magic were preparing to make, sending him to either the Nets or the Lakers to avoid losing him this summer to get nothing in return.
"It was great out there tonight," Howard said. "It was great to see the fans respond like that. For that, I thank them."
Howard may have waffled for weeks, bringing the franchise to its knees while deciding what to do, but all was forgotten at least on Friday in his first game since The Decision.
"Loyalty Wins," read one of the hand-held signs at the Arena.
For many of his teammates, it brought a sigh of relief, knowing now they still had the best center in the league, believing they can make a playoff run this spring.
The Magic had no trouble beating the Nets, 86-70, but it's the Heat and the Bulls -- and they beat both recently -- who are on their radar.
"When we're playing the right way, we can beat anyone," said Magic forward Glen Davis. "This team has that kind of potential."
The Magic face the Heat next in Miami on Sunday.
Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.