22 May 2012

Are the Magic making a mistake in firing Stan Van Gundy?

The big news in the world of the NBA yesterday, sans the NBA Playoffs of course, was the news that the Orlando Magic were dismissing both general manager Otis Smith as well as head coach Stan Van Gundy. The dismissal of Smith was somewhat surprising considering all he has been trying to do is to build a team to star center Dwight Howard's liking, and in the process taking on too many huge contracts which leaves the team in a position of where it can't do anything in the offseason, but the dismissal of Van Gundy is not really a surprise as it is something we've foreseen for a while, including the coach himself. So is this a move the Magic had to make and is it one that the club will regret?

I think that this move signifies to an even further extent the fact that this is a league, unlike any other, is one that caters to its stars. Once it appeared that Howard was unhappy with Van Gundy, he was good as gone. We all know about the whole Howard bit of will he stay or will he go resulted in Howard making the unusual move of waiving his right to opt-out of his contract in the offseason as the club at that time was prepared to trade him. Now the team is trying to do everything they can to keep Howard in town because the franchise doesn't want another situation like what happened with Shaquille O'Neal, when he departed town after the 1995-96 season for the Lakers and the team was not a strong contender in the East for a long time. And since the team really can't make any moves in the offseason thanks to Smith's stewardship, dumping Van Gundy was probably the only thing the team could have done to appease Howard to get him to stay, which is a shame because Van Gundy got everything he could out of the rosters he was given and had Howard grown up and realized that Van Gundy may have been his best shot to win a title in Orlando, this could've been a fruitful relationship. We all know that Van Gundy is a great coach and him forcing Howard to be a leader of this team would have only helped Howard take the next step towards a title but alas.

But there are questions if the team is completely willing to do whatever Howard wants to try to keep him in town because it still seems doubtful that he will sign in Orlando long-term after this season. Heck, it is not out of the question that the team will deal him this offseason if they can find a tempting offer to help take the next step, which quite frankly there does not seem to be a team that Howard wants to go to and can give them solid value in return. The Nets, which is where Howard ultimately wants to end up, don't have many great pieces to give Orlando. The Lakers and the Rockets both have some pieces that Orlando would like, but Howard has not seemed in the past willing to go to either city.

Plus, does Orlando go in the direction of catering to Howard in who they hire? Seems like Howard wants Nate McMillan, formerly of the Portland Trail Blazers, hired because they have a strong relationship from Team USA but the team may go in the direction, like Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don't Lie suggests, of bringing in the hot coaches on the assistant front in Pacers assistant Brian Shaw and Warriors assistant Michael Malone, who are both in contention for several jobs. And maybe Orlando would bring in Donnie Walsh to run basketball operations and he's very good at clearing house if the Magic are fed up with Howard's crap.

The Magic are not in a great position here. Do they ship out Howard or pull out every stop to try to convince him to stay in Central Florida? At this point, who knows.

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