Orlando Magic saga finally nears conclusion
The inevitable break-up.
The Magic’s center, Dwight Howard, is a true superstar in every sense of the word. He is virtually unstoppable on offense and wreaks havoc in the paint on defense. He was the best player on a team that made it to the NBA Finals in 2009. Few players in the league matter more to their team than Howard, which has been evident during the team’s slump with Howard sitting out after back surgery.
On the other side of the coin is Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. Van Gundy has been extremely successful in the NBA, with a winning percentage of .641 (371-208) in the regular season and .551 (48-39) in the playoffs. In his first four seasons as the head coach in Orlando, the team never won less than 52 games and made the NBA Finals in 2009 as mentioned earlier.
And now, the relationship between these two has been damaged irreparably. One of them will certainly not be in Orlando next season and there is a slight chance neither returns to the Magic.
It seems likely that Van Gundy will resign soon now that the Magic’s season has ended. He has been put through more than a coach of his caliber should. But in battles between superstar players and excellent coaches, the player wins. It’s as simple as that.
But Howard has behaved stupidly most of the last two years. He has distracted his team with his constant back-and-forth act regarding his future with the team. Howard has on several occasions asked to be traded, only to announce to the media that he loves Orlando and wants to stay.
Earlier this year, Howard told the Magic he would terminate his opt-out clause for this offseason, keeping him in Orlando for at least another year. But when the team asked him to sign the paperwork, Howard backed off and announced he wouldn’t be terminating the clause after all. But not to worry; he went back to the team the next day and signed the agreement. What a great guy.
That’s not to say Dwight Howard is a bad person, because I don’t think he is. He seems to love the game of basketball and has never been in any trouble off the court. But he is obviously immature and perhaps unable to be a true leader for a team that desperately needs one.
Van Gundy has been that leader. He has taken a broken team and instilled in them a sense of fight that wasn’t there when Howard was on the floor. The Pacers are simply better than the Magic in almost every way, but the series was much tougher than many expected. A lot of the credit for that has to go to Van Gundy.
Certainly, he has also made some mistakes in the past year. Announcing to the media that Howard had asked Magic owner Rich DeVos to fire Van Gundy was probably not the smartest move. But I’m sure it has not been easy dealing with Howard these past few years.
Van Gundy knows the writing is on the wall. He has made statements all but declaring he will be fired if he does not resign. DeVos wants to win a championship, and it’s hard to argue that Dwight Howard doesn’t give them a better chance to do that than Van Gundy.
But it didn’t have to be this way. Howard could have been more committal years ago about his future with the team. But instead, he’s been half prima donna, half nice guy, and the mix has finally proved too much for the team to overcome without major changes.
Both men will probably be happier without having to deal with the other. I think that’s the saddest part about this. They could have been a match made in basketball heaven. Now it’s back to the drawing board.