When Arenas was traded to the Orlando Magic on Dec. 18 after a tumultuous seven-plus years with the Washington Wizards, fans didn't get a chance to say goodbye.
The hastily announced trade of the player known as "Agent Zero" came after multiple knee surgeries and a 50-game suspension for bringing guns into the Verizon Center locker room in December 2009.
Seven weeks later, Arenas sat in the other locker room, basking in the mostly warm reception he received in the Magic's 110-92 win over the Wizards on Friday night.
"I expected to get booed some, glad I got cheered. It just shows that people understand it was one year, one bad mistake, and it can't erase seven good years that I had here," Arenas said.
"All feelings change when you have growth and when you get older. I'm a year older and a year wiser than I was last year," he said.
He had 10 points, six rebounds and six assists in 25 minutes.
While the pregame attention was on Arenas, Howard led the Magic to the win with 22 points and 15 rebounds.
A night after playing all 48 minutes in a 104-100 loss to the Miami Heat, Howard made his first 10 field goals and didn't miss a shot until 2:20 remained in the third quarter. His two dunks and long jumper, helped the Magic go on a 9-0 run that gave Orlando a 70-62 lead with 3:01 left in the third.
Howard had help from Ryan Anderson, who had 10 of his 19 points in the first quarter, Jason Richardson with 18 points and J.J. Redick, who had 15 points -- 12 in the fourth quarter as the Magic won going away.
"I'm glad that we got the lead and held it -- and I didn't have to play the whole game," Howard said.
Howard is enjoying his new teammate and thinks that he'll play better later in the season.
"He says he plays better in warmer months -- and it's not warm yet," Howard said. "We're just trying to wait until some warm weather comes, and the sun is out and Gil can play his game because right now it's hard for him to play when it's cold outside."
Arenas checked in with 1:31 to play in the first quarter. In his first 90 seconds, Arenas stole the ball from Nick Young, blocked his shot, grabbed a rebound and turned the ball over. In his eight minutes on the floor in the first half, the Magic performed poorly -- outscored by 14 points.
They did much better in his second-half stint -- with Arenas passing to Redick and Anderson for 3-pointers and playing fine defense on Young.
"He never scores on me. He already knew what was going to happen," Arenas said.
Coach Stan Van Gundy never thought he would praise Arenas' defense, but he did after the game.
"I thought Gilbert defensively was fabulous. I don't know how many times a coach has stood here and said that about him, but he really was the guy," Van Gundy said.
Washington, which has lost seven straight and nine of 10, was led by Young and Kirk Hinrich with 17.
Wizards rookie guard John Wall was ejected from the game with 2:26 remaining. He had picked up his first technical earlier in the fourth quarter, and as he walked toward the locker room, he stripped off his jersey and tossed it into the crowd.
"A couple of calls didn't go our way. I had something to say about it, and I guess the refs didn't like it," Wall said. "I don't know what calls rookies are supposed to get."
"I think he's frustrated," Washington coach Flip Saunders said. "I think he's getting knocked down -- and he's not getting many calls when he goes to the basket."
Washington rookie forward Trevor Booker had six blocks. ... Orlando forward Brandon Bass missed his second straight game with a sprained left ankle. ... The Wizards recalled center Hamady Ndiaye from Dakota of the D-League, but he won't play for at least a few weeks. According to Saunders, Ndiaye recently hurt his knee and he'll be better able to get treatment in Washington.