On Tuesday, Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard grabbed headlines when he claimed that his Orlando Magic team was "full of people that nobody wanted." It was a jerky move, to put it mildly, a case of a franchise ex-star casting aside a wealth of experience, relationships, and memories because his colleagues couldn't get him where he wanted. That's just a wee bit selfish and not particularly indicative of the personal characteristics we like to see in athletes and teammates, or really just people in the world.
Longtime Magic point guard Jameer Nelson criticized former teammate Dwight Howard's professionalism, saying he needs to “take ownership” of the things he says publicly about his former team. [...]
“At some point, when are you [Dwight] gonna as a man, when are you going to take ownership and stay out of the media in a professional manner?” Nelson told the Sentinel after Wednesday’s shooatround in Miami.
“I would be less of a man to comment on certain things that people comment on about me and my teammates. We had a great run as a group, as core guys, and he was a part of it (reaching the 2009 Finals) and for him to say things about anybody in a negative manner, that’s up to him.
“That’s his opinion. If that’s how he feels, that’s how he feels.”
This is not the first time that Nelson has expressed displeasure with Howard. In October, he claimed that Superman is no longer his favorite superhero in an obvious dig at the recently traded big man. It's possible that his frustration was short-lived, but Howard's comments clearly brought them back up.
Nelson has good reason to be upset. While it's true that the 2011-12 Magic lineup had run its course and featured a number of overpaid, limited players, it's callous and factually incorrect to act as if the team didn't accomplish anything. The Magic only won a single game in the 2009 Finals, but they did defeat LeBron James's Cleveland Cavaliers, then the favorite to win the whole thing, on the way there. Plus, Howard lobbied for general manager Otis Smith to add many of these supposed castoffs in the first place — it's not as if he always considered them unfit to play beside him.
More generally, though, Nelson is reacting to the implication that Howard didn't need him. As Matt Moore notes at Eye on Basketball, many of those Magic teams were excellent offensive squads in which the strengths of Howard inside matched up very well with a number of excellent outside shooters. It wasn't Howard propping up the shooters, or the shooters getting looks for Howard. They worked together — everyone made each other better.
When Howard claimed otherwise, he rejected that partnership, severing bonds that theoretically don't have to disappear when players stop sharing the same locker room. Why wouldn't Nelson be upset?