Dwight Howard and Stan Van Gundy, best buds (Getty Images)
Following a wonderful week and a half that saw the Orlando Magic beat both the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat, and watch as All-Star center Dwight Howard announce that he was signing an agreement to not waive the early termination option to play for the Magic (or, at least, "play under his current contract") in 2012-13, Orlando has slid since Sunday. A loss to those same Heat, and on Monday night an embarrassing home loss to the Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls in a game that saw Chicago limit the Magic to just 59 points. Again -- at home, no Derrick Rose.
The team is pretty well ensconced at the three seed in the East, set to play the up and down Atlanta Hawks in the playoffs' first round. Pretty good news on paper, until you realize that the Hawks still boast center Jason Collins, who has made a career out of shutting Howard down, and that Atlanta dispatched the Magic from the postseason in the first round last year. On top of that, Howard still refuses to comment on whether or not he'll re-sign a contract extension with the Magic this summer, leaving us all to wonder if the big man isn't just setting us all up for 2012-13 season full of uncertainty and whispered trade demands, especially because this Orlando roster doesn't boast many assets to trade in hopes of improving.
This is all the reason the team badly needs to commit to coach Stan Van Gundy (whose contract runs through 2013, like Dwight's) with a contract extension. Even though they won't. Even though they'll allow Howard to hold the team hostage, ignoring the idea that Stan Van Gundy might be the best coach in the NBA, and that his presence might be the franchise's greatest asset moving forward. Even more than an all-world center with MVP skills who is still a few years away from his prime, because that guy might take off in 2013 for no compensation. Without being as negative about Stan's future in Orlando, the Orlando Sentinel's Brian Schmitz seems to agree with me:
Read More »from Without an extension, Stan Van Gundy also might be twisting in the wind in Orlando