By: HASTINGS KOFKIN: NBA & NCAA FEATURED COLUMNIST
There seems to be no shortage of Dwight Howard induced news making its way through the NBA as the plague once did through Europe. Of course this is nothing new to the league, as we all remember the media circus caused by another big name player, from the free agency in 2010, where perhaps the most famous basketball related lines of the decade were uttered in “ This fall I’m going to take my talents to South Beach.”
However, this is not about LeBron and his talents. This is about Dwight and his ego. The issue of Dwight and his contract, as well as the will he, or won’t he dance, was not forgotten after the lockout ended. Soon after the tip of the first game, David Pingalore of WKMG Local 6 news began a segment counting the days Dwight Howard was “Holding Orlando hostage”.
Flash back to a few weeks before the March 15 trade deadline, and this is when the media circus intensifies, and I say this because the current issues between Howard and the Magic are just as much his fault as they are the media’s. With reports of Howard’s intentions and/or desires seemingly being published every hour. This is where Howard’s ego trip disconnected from the gate and began its taxi down the runway. It is absolutely okay for a player to be outspoken about the teams they desire, or the amount of money they are seeking, that’s a part of business. However, where is the line drawn in the sand? At no point should Dwight Howard have made a statement saying he will stay only if the Magic Organization acquires the right supporting cast. This is a ballsy statement on his part, and the media ran with it, agreeing with him no less, only boosting his already inflated ego.
“Howard Flight 012, this is the tower you are clear for takeoff.”
Then came reports from ESPN’s Ric Bucher that Dwight Howard had been given the keys to the castle from top Magic officials. Those same media members and fans alike saw this as a cheap and shameless last resort to get him to stay, in the sense that if he did, Howard alone would be responsible for the decision of whether or not to retain GM Otis Smith, and Coach Van Gundy.
“We have takeoff”.
I’m going to return for a moment to right before New York Knicks former head Coach Mike D’Antoni stepped down. Right before this reports came out that D’Antoni had lost the respect of the locker room, and one player in particular wanted him gone, that player being Carmelo Anthony.
Flashback even further to before the trade deadline, Dwight took inspiration from the deal Carmelo received from the Knicks, saying he was interested in something similar. With Thursday and Fridays’ turn of events, Could it be that Dwight again took inspiration from friend and fellow Olympic teammate Carmelo Anthony in seeking the termination of Van Gundy, just as Melo did D’Antoni?
This brings us up to date with the new issue and reports of Dwight reportedly asking for Van Gundy’s termination. Just as his friend Carmelo did, Howard continues to adamantly deny these claims. However, Van Gundy is not going quietly, and simply refuses to back down, claiming, “I know he has,” referring of course to the requests of termination. Van Gundy continues, “I was told it was true by people in our management. So, you know, right from the top.”
The last four words of that statement questions bring two thoughts two my mind. The first being how high from the top? GM Otis Smith is denying Howard asking him claiming, “He never asked me; I didn’t have that knowledge,” so with smith out, who else is left? CEO Alex Martins? On the other hand, did Dwight skip all these and go straight to the Devos family? If this were true, it would show an incredible amount of disrespect on Howard’s part. By skipping over everyone else, he shows he no longer values their opinion, as well as he is acting as a loose cannon, thinking he can make basketball decisions for the guys who are paid to make those decisions. Personnel management is not in his job description as a player, and he should leave it to whose job description reads in such a way. Most interesting to me is the idea that if he went to Devos, could it be that he thinks everyone else will say no.
Howard’s antics have undeniably had a role in the dismal play of the Magic recently. For the first time since 2007, the Howard led Magic lost five games in a row, and eight of their last 12. Howard did miss two games during the losing streak with an injury, and his play has been average at best during his past four games as Orlando has gone 1-3. He has hit his season average in points, rebounds, and blocks twice during that span.
The very definition of his ego clouding his judgment, and concealing everyone around him not himself, Van Gundy, or Magic management can be seen in a recent statement by Magic guard J.J. Reddick in which he says, “I think our tough times are a little more magnified this season because of everything that’s gone on off the court.”
That right there says it all, accepting the tough times, and though not directly citing the aptly named “Dwightmare” that is occurring, anyone would be stupid to think he is referring to something else.
Van Gundy, Howard and all parties involved traveled to Philadelphia last night as the Magic defeated the struggling 76ers, 88-82. Howard was second on the team in scoring with 20-points, and Superman’s performance on the boards was the difference in why the Magic snapped out of their losing streak. Howard led both teams with 23 rebounds. Philadelphia’s starting five managed just 28 total.
Various media reports, including one from Ken Berger of CBS Sports prior to last night’s game confirm that Van Gundy is expected to finish the remainder of the season. Otis Smith also confirmed that Coach Van Gundy would finish the remainder of the season.
To note also is Marc Stein of ESPN citing sources that Adonal Foyle is “currently being groomed for a prominent role in the future,” this in combination with CEO Alex Martins’ statement that “he (Van Gundy) and Smith will undergo end of the season evaluations,” in conjunction with everything happening now, it could be possible that Foyle is poised to replace General Manager Otis Smith. As well as Van Gundy’s exit. Add to the mix another Martins statement describing, “The only person(s) who have the final say on coaches and management is the Orlando Magic ownership,” and one could logically assume that the magic will clean house at the end of the season, getting rid of Smith and Van Gundy. Then either trading Dwight, or waiting until his contract expires then dumping him. If I was Rich Devos and the Devos family, this seems like the most viable option to me, because I am sure they are just tired of dealing with it all.
On the opposite side of this also, there exists the possibility that Dwight could leave also. If this were to happen, “Dwight Howard will not only go down in NBA annals as a spoiled coach-killer, he also will go down as a disloyal franchise-wrecker, too,” As so aptly written by Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel.
-Cue the crashing and burning.
First, there was Linsanity, now it is time for The Dwightmare. Or Dwight-ergate. Let me know which one you like better, as well as weigh in on your thoughts. After it’s all said and done, and the dust settles, it will end up being a very interesting off-season for the Orlando Magic.
Hastings can be heard on Z-BEST SPORTS TALKS almost daily with his take on the NBA.