If you thought the Dwight Howard drama came to an end after the trade deadline passed, think again. After a mere few weeks passed, we saw yet another episode unveil in the Orlando Magic soap opera. Once again, the media frenzy is surrounding the Magic – again. On Thursday morning, Coach Stan Van Gundy revealed to the media that he was told that Howard asked Magic management to fire him. When asked whether his coach was speaking the truth, Howard – who has been heavily criticized all season long –made himself look even more foolish in his subsequent actions and words in denial of SVG’s accusations. In one fell swoop, this created the most egregiously awkward press conference I can remember to date (if you have a few minutes, it’s worth watching the whole thing – you’ll get a good laugh).
|Thursday morning’s press conference had Stan Van Gundy (left)
and Dwight Howard (right) in a bizzare and awkward situation
Before offering my opinion on Howard, I will say this: ESPN’s David Thorpe offered some very perceptive words about Dwight Howard on Thursday, saying that Howard “is really just like so many young stars in all careers — Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. Young men with enormous talent and a promising future, forced to grow up faster than they are prepared to do. Mistakes in judgment are made, and sometimes emotions ugly things up for a while. But I am sure that over time things will get better for him as he matures.”
While it’s so easy for all of us outsiders to criticize Dwight, we do tend to overlook what Thorpe pointed out: he’s still a young 26-year old kid. We just tend to ignore that because, like many lines of work, the NBA is another place that forces you to mature faster than you can. That’s why Howard has been handling all of this so poorly – even though we have high expectations, maturity wise, for a team’s franchise player, being in a position to flex power and leverage can have dire consequences for an immature person. So, while I am just as guilty as anyone of no longer giving Howard any benefit of the doubt, we do have to give him a chance to grow up after this experience.
Okay, enough of playing devil’s advocate. That being said…
Howard simply cannot be trusted. He has a disturbing tendency to throw everyone else around him – players, coaches, GMs, what have you – under the bus. And as we found out before the trade deadline, he is extraordinarily flaky. After Thursday night’s blowout loss to the Knicks (at HOME, no less), where Howard had a poor game (8 points, 8 rebounds, and was scoreless at the half), he claimed he was trying to get back in a rhythm after returning from injury – but still putting in max effort for his team. Who’s BSing now? If I’m a GM, I’d be weary of a guy who has a history of calling out his teammates for not being good enough and his coach for being too negative. There are extenuating circumstances when a player has a right to complain to upper management about their coaching situation (e.g. Magic Johnson with Paul Westhead), but this is certainly not one of them.
After Dwight’s series of bad decision making, does LeBron James’ “Decision” look that bad anymore? I don’t think it does. Unlike LeBron, Howard has caused several uproars and imploded the team before even becoming a free agent. Yes, I think Howard has made people hate LeBron a little less – and that in itself is no small feat.
|Much of the hatred toward LeBron for his “Decision”
has been shifting towards Dwight Howard
Van Gundy has taken a lot of criticism as well – especially for revealing a supposedly private conversation with management to the media. But if you were Van Gundy, would you WANT to keep quiet and continue to be a scapegoat in defense of a guy who’s trying to get you fired? He has kept pretty quiet in the midst of all the turmoil for this long. After Howard continued his subversive antics, you can’t blame SVG for saying what he said. Let’s not side with the guy who – let’s not forget – is still handcuffing the organization by refusing to commit to them long term. Why would GM Otis Smith take his advice on personnel decisions?
So what’s next for Van Gundy, Howard, and Orlando?
I think Stan is going to resign. Whether he’s lost the entire team is up for debate, as we’re not entirely sure if the rest of the team has any qualms with Van Gundy the same way Dwight evidently has. If Stan has lost the team, then so has Howard; he has isolated himself by his flakiness and the constant criticism of everyone else around him. The fact that they’ve had the 3rd-best record in the East for most of the season is a miracle – and a testament to Van Gundy, not Howard. But either way, there’s no way Van Gundy can keep this up for much longer. If they think they can suck it up the rest of the season, they’re kidding themselves.