ORLANDO — You could probably safely assume Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has spoken with Derrick Rose daily, hourly and minute-ly, if possible, because that’s what coaches do. They’re always in communication with their superstar, especially in tough times, as Rose is going through as he prepares for knee surgery.
But Stan Van Gundy and Dwight Howard? The coach who said his superstar was trying to get him fired, and the star who hasn’t strongly endorsed the coach?
Well, although they’re currently on separate coasts, they’re keeping in touch. So they say.
Howard was found on the mean streets of Beverly Hills recently by gossip site TMZ, in the wake of back surgery, which was performed in Los Angeles. And Howard made it appear he and Van Gundy are downright chummy.
They’ve talked “a bunch of times” said Howard.
Which means, more than once.
“What’s the definition of a bunch?” asked Van Gundy with a shrug before Game 3 of the Pacers-Magic series. “We’ve communicated before the playoffs started and then after Game 2 texted back and forth.”
Pressed for details, Van Gundy took a pass.
“Can we talk about basketball instead of relationships? We’re communicating.”
The issue of Howard and Van Gundy has been a sensitive and uncomfortable one ever since their strange back-and-forth a month ago. Neither side has come out publicly and clarified their relationship. Are they on the same page? Does one want the other? Will Howard go to management and demand to have Van Gundy coach next season? Or demand that Van Gundy get the boot? Or say nothing at all?
If nothing else, the open lines of communication show a thawing between the two. Whether that’s enough to repair the damage is debatable at this point, and probably won’t be known until the offseason, which could arrive by next week for the Magic.
Until then, Howard, who says he can’t fly from L.A. and re-join the team because his doctors advise against it, has repeated the Magic’s playoffs mantra “We all we got.”
The Magic have struggled without Howard, as expected, losing two of the first three games. Howard said he has watched every game and agonized through it all.
He added: “I’m a little sad I can’t be with my teammates for the playoffs. I feel like I’m in jail right now. It’s a tough time for me and my team. They need me and I need them. I’ve been talking to the guys after each and every game, supporting them and telling them what they need to do.”
And finally, about the idea of Howard staying away purposely? “I would never quit on my team, my fans or my coach.”
Yes, he remembered to back the coach.
This is just something to remember come summer.