In this special edition of the NBA.com Writers Blogtable, we asked our stable of scribes to weigh in on the Stan Van Gundy/Dwight Howard situation in Orlando. You can have your say, too, in the comments section below.
In the Dwight Howard/Stan Van Gundy mess: Who’s wrong? And how do you see this thing ending up?
Steve Aschburner: They’re both wrong but not to the same degree. Stan Van Gundy was wrong, little, in going so public with what obviously were internal conversations between him and Magic management, and between Dwight Howard and the bosses. But Van Gundy at least was being honest and seems determined to not take the fall the way he did in Miami with Shaq. Howard, on the other hand, has been wrong, big, throughout his mess. He doesn’t seem to know what he wants and is coming across as a complete phony. Van Gundy is more sympathetic now but with no more job security. My hunch: Both he and Howard are working elsewhere next season.
Fran Blinebury: Nothing about Dwight Howard has changed since the trade deadline fiasco. He is 26 years old going on 16, saying his goal is to make a dispassionate business decision, yet wanting to be hugged.
However, the blame here belongs with Magic owner Rich DeVos and president Alex Martins for allowing this situation to fester. If they are willing – even for a moment – to entertain the notion of firing Stan Van Gundy in order to get Howard to sign a long-term contract, that’s a cold-blooded decision and it’s their right. But it should have happened already.
It ends in the Van Gundy family kitchen with Stan asking brother Jeff to pull the knife from his back.
John Schuhmann: Dwight Howard is clearly in the wrong. Beyond his obvious immaturity is the fact he doesn’t realize that Van Gundy is one of the best coaches in the league and a huge part of the Magic’s success over the last few years. They’re the only team that’s been in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency each of the last four seasons, and you don’t do that without a great coach. And I’m fine with what Van Gundy did Thursday morning. When he’s asked a question regarding him and Dwight, he shouldn’t have to pretend that everything’s peachy.
I imagine the Magic will have a new coach (and a new GM) by August or September. Maybe by Saturday’s game in Philly. But no matter who the coach is, Howard still isn’t committed to the franchise long-term unless he signs an extension this summer. And if he doesn’t, the situation in Orlando will only get more ridiculous and dysfunctional.
Sekou Smith: Stan Van Gundy confirmed what has been rumored for years. Dwight Howard doesn’t like him and wants the Magic to make a change. That wasn’t breaking news to me. And I have no problem with Van Gundy airing the Magic’s dirty laundry. How many times can you ask the man to eat his pride and allow Dwight Howard or any other player to run roughshod over him behind closed doors? Van Gundy knows that his days are numbered. I don’t blame him for not wanting to go down as the fall guy again (the way he did in Miami). The Magic’s issues this season being and end with Howard’s training camp trade request and all of the foolishness that one act inspired. Anyone looking to point fingers needs to aim them at the cat smiling on the end of the bench and going back and forth with the Knicks’ fans at Amway Center Thursday night. This one’s on him.
Shaun Powell: Maybe both are right and both are wrong … maybe there are no “bad guys” or “sympathetic figures” and maybe they just don’t see eye-to-navel anymore. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that happened. Actually, it happens all the time. Deron Williams, Magic Johnson, Jason Kidd, Shaquille O’Neal, Patrick Ewing, the list is longer than the day the Magic just endured. Van Gundy’s failure was his inability to reach the only player on the roster whose opinion matters, the player who helps him win games. Yes, Howard is a diva, but isn’t that why they pay millions to coaches, and why there’s a waiting list for one of only 30 such jobs? Howard’s failure was mailing it in against the Knicks and giving up on his teammates, all because of his bruised ego.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Good luck finding anybody who thinks Stan Van Gundy was wrong. More likely, he is being celebrated, especially by peers who have always wanted to do the same thing: Not cover for a star player. The unusual amount of straight talk even by SVG standards probably made him a hero. (And it won’t get him fired, either. That would have happened anyway.)
Van Gundy is on his way out and Howard is on his way to that special place of superstars who will spend years trying to live down how badly they botched career planning. Stan Van at least gets to come off like the victim.
His soon-to-be-former centers gets to live with it.