HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Foolish me, I thought cooler heads might prevail and that they’d be able to salvage a little something in Orlando this season.
They’re all grownups, right? They’ve learned from the mistakes of others, seen how dangerous that road to breakup can be. No one wants this to be more painful than it has to be. So I assumed that no one would let this situation deteriorate into some sort of mess.
Again, I was wrong. (I know, plenty of you tried to warn me last week. Silly me.)
There is no magic way out for the Magic and their Dwight Howard dilemma. I just don’t see it right now on the heels of the Magic losing four of five games and coming apart in the process.
Howard started the weekend blasting his teammates after a despicable loss to the lowly New Orleans Hornets:
“I look at guys and they don’t look like they want to play,” Howard said following the lopsided loss. “I told them at halftime, ‘If you don’t want to play, just stay in the locker room, because it don’t make sense for a team who we should beat to just demolish us.’ ”
“It hurts to get out there and you play your hardest and you expect everybody to play the same way, and I’m not calling anybody out by no means because we all have to get better … but if you don’t want to be out there, don’t dress up,” Howard said. “If you don’t want to play, stay home. People work too hard. I want to win a championship. I work too hard every night for anybody to not want to go out there and play hard. …
“None of the — whatever, trade stuff — none of that stuff matters. Play basketball. That’s why we all get paid to do this, because we love the game and it’s basketball, so why not give it your all?”
He finished the weekend with crickets … Howard didn’t make himself available after the Pacers waxed the Magic in the second half Sunday at the Amway Center. And his silence says more to me than any emotional words he might utter after an ugly loss.
The fact is, five games in seven days has a way of exposing a team, and the cracks within its foundation, that the good times simply do not.
Shaking up the lineup or rotation is fine, but when Stan Van Gundy starts talking about finding a “consistent energy and effort” … you have to know where this is headed. This Magic team is free-falling before our eyes right now, with the Howard situation (not to mention All-Star Weekend) looming.
I don’t think a win streak makes this go away. Not when the fans walk out booing the home team the way they did after Sunday’s thumping at the hands of the Pacers.
The decline has been so dramatic. At 11-4 and seemingly in control of their own destiny after an impressive win over the Los Angeles Lakers, the Magic promptly went to pieces. They scored a franchise-record low 56 points in a 31-point loss to the Celtics before rebounding briefly with a solid win in Indiana.
But then came the rematch with Boston Thursday night on TNT, a game the Magic appeared to have in hand before the most stunning collapse of the season by any team in the league. Their fourth-quarter meltdown helped the Celtics erase a 27-point deficit for the win. And that debacle was followed up by the loss to the Hornets, after which Van Gundy said:
“We were awful. The three worst losses I think we’ve had since I’ve been here and it’s in the matter of five days. It’s tough to take. We were sitting at 11-4 and playing pretty well and all of a sudden, other than the Indiana game, we’ve fallen apart. … The only thing we did tonight was dump the ball into Dwight. We had no energy coming off screens, the ball didn’t move, guys didn’t want to shoot the ball. It’s very, very bad right now. It’s a matter of energy and we don’t seem to conjure that up right now.”
No one is making this stuff up, folks.
This is reality TV going on with the Magic right now, and the takeaway for all of us is going to be a familiar one.
That sick feeling you have after the show ends just won’t go away!