Dwight Howard and Stan Van Gundy lost another game, the Orlando Magic’s fifth consecutive loss, following the drama the erupted when it came to light that Howard has apparently asked the Magic front office to get a new head coach. Even worse, or weirder, is that Van Gundy actually admitted to the media he talked to management, confirming the rumors.
Howard himself is saying that it’s something made up, but it’s hard believing him. Maybe this was all some part of a grand master-plan – Howard decided to stay with the Magic, waive his opt out option for this summer and stop demanding for trades, hoping this will give him more power with the front office, in time to get rid of Van Gundy.
But why now? What has changed since 2011, and 2010, and 2009? It’s been rumored that Howard has never loved the Van Gundy approach, but as long as he believed the system around him, believed that the Magic are on the right path of contending for the NBA title, he seemed fine with going along. Orlando did stun everyone by beating both the Celtics and the Cavs in 2009, reaching the NBA finals against the Lakers.
The next year? Orlando had home court advantage against the Boston Celtics, but woke up too late in the series to reach a second straight Finals series. In 2011, Howard put up some incredible numbers, but with all the moving around and shifting players to complement Howard, the Magic seemed to take a step backwards. Losing to the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the ’11 playoffs was a sign.
So Howard demanded trades, and didn’t get ‘em. Orlando brought back Hedo Turkoglu, and Jameer Nelson was making sounds of his old self again. The Magic were a very good team these past few years because of the system Van Gundy set up – A very good defense built around Howard’s abilities and excellent perimeter play.
Well, the defense has slipped, which isn’t about Howard exactly, but it does say something about his effort which does seem to be off on some nights, on both ends of the court. The rest of the guys follow. Nelson and Turk aren’t the same players they were two years ago, while Jason Richardson and Ryan Anderson are OK, nothing more. Dwight Howard keeps talking about winning a championship, but he knows there’s not enough in the cauldron to make it happen.
And somehow, it has come to this. Stan Van Gundy, who’s appreciated by most of Howard’s teammates, has won at least 52 games in the previous four season with the Orlando Magic. He followed the line Pat Riley layed out for him after pushing him out of the Miami Heat job in 2005-2006, but he just came out and leaked his conversation with management. I’m pretty sure no one in the front office is happy with that.
Likable or not, Van Gundy is one of the best head coaches in the league. But in a NBA where the stars come before head coaches, it’ll probably be Howard who comes out winning in this personal battle. Unless it was all some made up story by a desperate reporter, although it doesn’t seem to be. Too many signs fit the whole incident scroll line. Orlando as a team, easy to see from their current losing streak, are the losers in this situation, no matter who stays and/or goes.