There is still aftermath coming out of the Dwight Howard trade. Orlando is still picking up the pieces, introducing Arron Afflalo to the media Thursday as their rollout of the post-Dwight Howard team begins to take a murky shape.
The one guy many people wanted to hear from is the former coach, Stan Van Gundy. Generally, people want to hear from Van Gundy all the time because of his no-holds-barred, painfully honest approach to interviews. Van Gundy is never one to mince words.
That is probably what ended up getting him fired… and may have cost Orlando Dwight Howard if you believe certain reports.
Van Gundy has his theories and he finally shared them with Jonathan Zaslow and Hoch of 790 The Ticket in Miami (h/t Sports Radio Interviews). Van Gundy told the Miami radio station that he believes Magic management mishandled the situation — duh — and the franchise probably got what it deserved.
But the aftermath that came after the March 15 trade deadline? That even confused coach Stan Van Gundy, who was traveling with the team from San Antonio the night the Dwight-mare truly delved into madness:
Well, I think it confuses everyone. It confuses all of us. I was a little bit surprised at the time.
Look I think Dwight Howard is a guy, who likes his teammates, enjoys the camaraderie of the locker room and he’s gotta realize you are in season making that decision and the guys you are with every single day are your teammates.
It’s also…the timing of it is we were also out on the road at that time and just played San Antonio, so it’s not like he’s going home after practice or something else. He is with his teammates all day and sort of got wrapped up in that and just decided hey I want to…I might as well just finish this season in Orlando and he opted in, but at the same time I don’t think his desire to leave at some point ever left him, so it was more I think to finish the year in Orlando.
That certainly appeared to be part of the story. That final plan ride home from San Antonio to Orlando was supposedly a wild ride with the players taking a whole bunch of photos on the plane and having a good time despite a hard-fought loss to the Spurs earlier that evening.
It was when the plane landed that things got crazy. Howard texted RealGM columnist Jarrod Rudolph, who is probably closest to Howard and his camp among the Magic media contingent, and apologized for what he had put Magic fans through and officially confirmed his desire to stay in Orlando. Howard met Otis Smith on the tarmac and was prepared to waive his early termination option on the spot. But Smith asked Howard to sleep on it and be sure.
He came back the next morning and agreed to waive his early termination option and then went in front of the world and touted his loyalty to the franchise.
Depending on whom you believe, the relationship became completely toxic after that. Van Gundy answered a question too honestly and confirmed to the media on the record that Howard had asked the organization to fire him. According to several reports, Howard believed the Magic did not defend him publicly enough after Van Gundy outed him to the world.
Things only got worse as Howard got hurt and the Magic seemed to brush it off as something minor — Howard is still not cleared to run and continues to rehab in Los Angeles.
The Magic had a ton of turnover in the aftermath of all that, firing Van Gundy and his coaching staff and general manager Otis Smith. None of that was enough to keep Dwight Howard and the Magic are preparing to sink all the way to the bottom to climb back up.
There is definitely some blame reserved for the DeVos family and the upper management in Orlando. In some ways, it did feel like the Magic were deluding themselves or were too naive to see the ultimate writing on the wall. The franchise did pass on potentially better deals with the Nets in December and again in March that would have netted them the cap space from Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez's expiring contracts and potentially four first round picks (including Portland's pick used to draft Damian Lillard).
Again, no arguing with Van Gundy, the Magic got what they deserved in waiting and dealing with all the unnecessary drama and turmoil that Howard's indecision put them through. It was like Orlando's fears of a Shaquille O'Neal repeat — losing the best center in the league for nothing — made them go to the other spectrum — holding onto the best center in the league until the very last moment.