The idea that Dwight Howard might leave the Orlando Magic when his contract runs out in the summer of 2012 seems, well, like yesterday's news at this point. The NBA is in real danger of not only losing half of its 2011-12 games, but also the goodwill created by an exciting 2010-11 run. And for Howard to spark up the discussion about leaving Orlando in what seems to be yet another de rigueur "I'm a hep young man, but I dress like a 1960s prep"-interview with Esquire? It more or less defines self-serving.
It's also clear that Dwight has some real, real problems with the Magic, and his coach Stan Van Gundy. And even for those of us without a claim to the All-Star center, this is disappointing.
[Related: NBA winning public fight with players]
SR: If I had a coach like Stan Van Gundy yelling at me all season, I would have slapped that guy silly a long time ago. What's it like to have a guy constantly yelling at you with that voice?
DH: Stan's a great guy away from basketball. He's passionate. He loves the game. I have no problem with him off the court. The only thing I had a real problem with was the way he coached. It was very tough with Stan, because he yelled a lot, and I don't want to be that guy to yell at my teammates along with my coach. Because they're going to turn it all off. I had to find different ways to motivate my team. Sometimes when you have so much negativity, it's really hard to be positive. I had a lot of negativity growing up, so I understand how to block the negativity out.
SVG does yell. He's also a brilliant coach who adapts brilliantly on the fly while remaining one of the better basketball minds we have in this game. I abhor screaming and yelling, personally, and yet I might pick him above all others if I'm starting a basketball team and short a head coach. Mainly because I'm convinced Gregg Popovich will be asked to return to his covert operations in the CIA any minute now.
If you're a Magic fan, though, the interview gets worse:
DH: There's more you can do in a bigger place. I'm stuck in a tough position because I feel like right now, where I'm at, I've done so much. And I just don't know what else I can do…I love the people in the city. I've literally sat on the bench with a towel on my head crying, because I feel the passion in the stands. I just think about what's going to be best for what I want to accomplish in my life. And I don't want that door to close on me, wherever that door is. I don't want it to close.
Orlando's GM Otis Smith inherited his team's two-best players, Howard and Jameer Nelson, and he's spent like a Knick in acquiring Rashard Lewis, Gilbert Arenas, Vince Carter and Jason Richardson. Sure, those four players were all traded for each other, and the Magic's ownership group (rich from other business interests) can afford these salaries even in a tiny market like Orlando, but Howard really has been let down by the Orlando front office. Its best move was hiring Van Gundy (after Billy Donovan, whew, backed out of a deal), and Howard doesn't even seem to be happy with that at this point.
We've all earned the right to free speech, and the chance to kvetch about our co-workers on record. There is nothing that Howard is pulling out that isn't wrong, because feelings are never wrong. And just because the NBA is seemingly hours away from losing another six weeks of games, it doesn't mean that Howard can't go on record complaining about his state of play with the Magic. When, and if, it returns.
It also doesn't mean he's being self-serving in a time when he should be focusing on aiding his players in determining the future of the league as a whole. It's a tricky balance. Nobody ever comes off well while complaining, even if they're completely right.
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