Earlier this week, in an interview with lights and cameras and everything, Dwight Howard told CBS’ Kristine Leahy that his “team in Orlando was a team full of people that nobody wanted.” It would have been nice to get a follow-up question from Leahy about that statement, but instead she jumped right to asking if “Kobe Bryant like(s) to have fun” in the locker room.
Predictably, us in the media bleated on about the stupid, insensitive statement. More importantly, former Magic teammates Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis rightfully took the statement personally – as Lewis was a coveted free agent in 2007 before joining the Magic on a maximum contract, and Nelson was an NCAA star that the team traded for in the same draft that produced Howard.
On Wednesday, because Dwight Howard is so desperate in attempting to have things both ways, Howard “clarified” his statement. He also blasted the media for relaying his literal words, instead of reading his mind and anticipating his eventual backtracking. Silly us, for failing to do that work for him. From the Los Angeles Times:
Howard, however, later said Nelson and Lewis misinterpreted his comment because the media "twisted it into a negative thing" while relating his words to Orlando players.
"I never meant any disrespect to none of my former teammates," Howard said after the Lakers' 108-102 victory Wednesday over New Orleans. "My statement was just to say that our team that I played with in Orlando, we were the underdogs. Nobody really talked about our team. Everybody overlooked us for the whole time I was there in Orlando and I hated that. We all hated that.
Both Nelson and Lewis criticized Howard for talking to the media in general when, in Lewis’ words, “he should be focused on playing for the Lakers and making the playoffs.” But that’s sort of par for the course when you decide to pair up with a fluff TV talking head whose stated (on air!) intention was to drive up Howard’s “likability,” before throwing to the premiere of a shoe advertisement.
This is Dwight Howard, in walking and talking definition. He “never meant any disrespect to none of my former teammates,” but he also wanted nothing to do with playing for them and please trade me away from them and wait I don’t want to be the bad guy so I’ll sign a contract to play with them and talk about my loyalty to them but seriously dude trade me a few months after I commit to playing with them for another year.
Oh, and also, he doesn’t want to be thought of us a “coach killer,” to use his phrase, but please kill that coach’s employment with the team of people that nobody wanted.
Cake. Eat it. Too.
It might be hard, as we move from 47 shifting narratives per day, to recall – but people actually valued the Orlando Magic very highly for the last few years of Dwight’s run with the team.
By 2011-12, sure, it was clear that former GM Otis Smith had botched the job, but as soon as Kevin Garnett went down with injury during the 2008-09 season it was obvious that Orlando had as good a chance as any to win the title. I picked them to return to the Finals before 2009-10, as many did, and picked them to win the conference finals later that year before they fell in a surprise to Boston. Many of us also regarded the Magic as in with a very good chance during the 2010-11 season considering how effective Dwight’s defense and the team’s spread offense worked against teams like Chicago and Miami. The team had a massive payroll and made splashy trades, and they were on national TV constantly.
Nobody overlooked Orlando. If anyone treated them as underdogs, it was only because they were playing the Los Angeles Lakers that night.
Dwight Howard was right to want to play for a different roster than the one Otis Smith created. Dwight Howard was right to want to play for a championship-level team, and that team didn’t exist in Orlando after 2010. We totally get it. We totally understand. This isn’t working, trade me.
Own it, though, Dwight. This is pathetic.
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