Running off at the typewriter. …
Most people — if a co-worker intentionally tried to get them fired — would revel in that co-worker’s ultimate misfortune, but Stan Van Gundy isn’t at all rejoicing in Dwight Howard’s career free fall.
Van Gundy, the former Magic coach who was eventually dismissed seven years ago after he revealed Howard went to management in an attempt to get him fired, is both incredulous and empathetic as to what’s happened to Howard since he left the Magic.
Howard was the three-time Defensive Player of the Year, one of the league’s brightest superstars and among the most dominant centers in NBA history when he played for Van Gundy and the Magic. Since then, though, he has become an afterthought — an NBA vagabond who just joined his fifth team (the Washington Wizards) since forcing his way out of Orlando.
“It’s crazy; it really is,” Van Gundy said during his weekly appearance on my Open Mike radio show on FM 96.9 and AM 740. “… And it’s not been a lot of fun to watch because this is a guy who was the best center in the game for a long time. He’s still very good, but it doesn’t seem that he’s been highly appreciated.”
Magic owner Rich DeVos tried to warn Dwight about this all those years ago.
"Dwight is in a good place [in Orlando], and when you're young, sometimes you don't realize that," DeVos said at the time. "The loyalty you develop in a community is always remembered. But if you leave, you don't pick it up in the next town. It's not an add-on — because you lose what you had. Maybe you gain some new [love], but maybe you don't. Maybe the net gain isn't as good as you think."
Van Gundy has often relayed a similar message to his players and his teams.
“One of the things I’ve said to teams and players from time to time — especially when things are going well like we had them going in Orlando — is that you better appreciate it and enjoy it because things change quickly in this game,” Van Gundy says. “You know, it’s tough for guys to really think it will change on them, but it does. And it changed on Dwight quickly.”
According to Van Gundy, one of the reasons for Dwight’s downfall is that he hasn’t embraced the evolving role of the center in today’s NBA.
“The problem is — and not just for Dwight — it’s been a tough adjustment for them [big men.] What everybody wants right now in a center is a guy who runs, defends, defends pick-and-rolls, protects the rim, rebounds and, on offense, is a pick-and-roll guy and a lob threat. Well, that’s Dwight Howard. There’s probably nobody who’s ever been better than him [at those skills.]
“The problem is these guys all want more. They want it go go back to the days where you would throw them the ball in the low post and then they get to play their game. I understand that. You’re a great player and you want to be able to show what you can do, but the game has changed. It’s been a tough adjustment for centers. I don’t think the game has passed them by because those guys are still really effective. They just have had trouble adjusting to and enjoying the role people want them to play.”
Which is why Dwight has become an NBA gypsy and a punch line. Earlier this week, late-night TV host John Oliver’s monologue included some jokes about President Trump’s foreign trade policy — as it related to Dwight.
“Trade is the basic system of barter and exchange, which you have to do carefully or you’ll end up with Dwight Howard,” Oliver cracked. “Seriously, parents. Talk to your children about trade. You don’t want them to go to school with pizza lunchables and coming home with Dwight Howard.”
Short stuff: Urban Meyer said he kept accused domestic abuser Zach Smith on his staff so long because he was making decisions with his “heart and not his head.” My question: What heart? After watching his emotionless, stone-faced demeanor during that news conference Wednesday night, I’m convinced that if Meyer has a heart, then it’s made of fossilized rock and old bones. … Headline in the aftermath of the Buckeyes enabling their head football coach to perpetrate a domestic abuse cover-up: “Ohio State is wallowing in Urban Mire.” …
Did you see where there are already allegations of NCAA violations within Jimbo Fisher’s Texas A&M program? Hey, what do you expect? It’s the SEC, baby, where if you ain’t cheatin’ then you ain’t competin’! … I don’t know about you, but I’m a little sad Atlanta United is everything Orlando City was supposed to be when it joined MLS four seasons ago. What happened? … Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are actually playing in a winner-take-all $9 million pay-per-view match on the day after Thanksgiving. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be at Wal-Mart at 2 a.m. on Black Friday than pay $29.95 to watch two past-their-prime golfers play in a pay-per-view cash grab. … FSU athletics director Stan Wilcox has left after five years to take an executive position with the NCAA. I’m not saying Wilcox was one of the most obscure, behind-the-scenes ADs in FSU history, but his departure is the biggest news he’s made since his arrival.
Last word: Ohio State lead shill, er, investigator Mary Jo White: “Coach Meyer did not, in our view, deliberately lie.” Question for Ms. White: Isn’t a lie, by its very definition, deliberate?