Spears’ Spiel: What is going on with the Orlando Magic?
By: Matt Spears
I’ve tried for days now to wrap my head around the latest batch of dysfunctional news emanating from the Orlando Magic, but it still baffles me.
Stan Van Gundy’s recent comments that he knows Dwight Howard asked the front office to fire him were flabbergasting. As if the circus surrounding the Dwight Howard to-trade-or-not-to-trade drama this season hadn’t engulfed the team in enough turmoil, Van Gundy just increased and intensified it.
For an NBA coach, there are two fool-proof ways to ensure yourself an early organizational exit.
The first is to lose games. That’s something Van Gundy has been able to avoid more often than not.
The second is having a terrible relationship with your superstar player.
Just ask Jerry Sloan and Paul Westphal about that. Sloan reportedly resigned from the Utah Jazz last season after feuding with Deron Williams, while Westphal’s public spat with DeMarcus Cousins gave him in the ax in Sacramento just seven games into this shortened season.
It’s hard to fathom how Van Gundy and Howard can continue to coexist through the rest of the year, much less into subsequent seasons.
Before Howard opted into his $19 million contract option for next season, Van Gundy had become weary of Howard’s trade demands and having everyone’s focus on Howard’s situation as opposed to the team. Even when the spotlight has been on the team, it hasn’t always been good.
For every couple of games where the Magic look like they could give the Heat or Bulls a run for their money, they follow that up with a dud of a game. A dud of all duds where Howard looks disinterested and stays away from team huddles, while his teammates mindlessly follow his lead.
With all of that being said, they still have the fifth best record in the Eastern Conference and the potential to scare whatever team they face come playoff time.
That’s why, as crazy as it sounds, these two can and will coexist through the rest of the regular season. This isn’t new. Van Gundy and Howard have been through a lot together.
Four playoff appearances (soon to be five), two conference finals appearances and one NBA Finals appearance.
Van Gundy and Howard, along with a mediocre supporting cast, have accomplished a lot together. While I find it hard to imagine a scenario in which Van Gundy didn’t lose the locker room, I don’t think it means the team has lost all hope for this season.
With just two weeks remaining in the season the Magic will find a way to play through the distractions, and once they enter the playoffs, it won’t matter who coaches them. I could become their coach in the playoffs and they’re going to play just as hard.
Then, it becomes a matter of talent and execution.
Now, the offseason is a different story.
Van Gundy is gone as soon as the Magic exit the playoffs. It makes no sense to fire him now and add distractions on top of distractions. But he can’t return next year.
A team can’t lose win if they have no respect and trust in their head coach. Perhaps Van Gundy wanted to get fired. Perhaps he was just too honest for his own good.
Either way, I’ve been trying for days to understand why Van Gundy let this information slip.
I’m still baffled.
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