You probably spotted the preview of the series I did with Pacers Center and Pacers Pulse. I returned the favor and answered a few questions for them.
Here is a sample of what I said over at Pacers Center in advance of tonight's Game One:
4. What is the key for the Magic to win the series?
The Magic have to make 3-pointers. This team is “live by the three, die by the three,” even more without Dwight Howard in there. Orlando simply does not have the playmakers or the players to get to the basket consistently and score or get to the line. Not for long enough stretches to make a difference. This is a team that relies on 3-pointers and they will need about 10 per game, if not more, to keep games close and keep motivated to play hard. There is an unfortunate pattern of this team losing its focus when the shots are not falling. Without Dwight Howard as a safety net, that could mean very bad things.
here is a sample of what said over at Pacers Pulse:
2) With Dwight gone, what are the realistic expectations for this team? Can they still surprise people or are fans already looking forward to what awaits them next season?
Another good question. This definitely is not the same team without Dwight Howard. They are lacking their offensive and defensive linchpin. I think what the Magic realistically want is a respectable showing. This team will play hard, but it has a lot to overcome. This is not the most talented team outside of Dwight Howard and that has shown in the team's uneven play since Howard's injury. If this team gets hot, it can still beat just about anybody (by outscoring them, mind you) but when this team is cold, it is a team that could barely break 80 or 90. That is how things go. So a respectable showing in the first round would be a nice step for this franchise.
Over at TrueHoop, they have started a sweeping initiative to improve the NBA. HoopIdea has been examining ways to make the game we love that much better with various initiatives. It is probably best known for trying to tackle the issues of flopping (with its Flop of the Night) and tanking. There are a lot of really good ideas out there about how to make the NBA better.
I got on the horn with Beckley Mason and crew and submitted my pet idea. I hope to go into it a little bit more during the offseason, but I am very much for a supplemental single-elimination tournament. I am not alone. As Mason and Henry Abbott write, after pouring over the many, many suggestions for such a tournament, this is something many fans would love to see (maybe not to replace the current Playoff format, but certainly as one that could exist alongside it).
"This HoopIdea is to end the NBA's odd practice of being just about the only basketball league anywhere without a single-elimination tournament.
Where organized basketball is played, there are tournaments where you win or go home, and in every case they are the most meaningful and entertaining games of the season.
Something about this sport simply works with this format. We like the sport for its crunch time, but those end-of-game moments are so much more thrilling when both teams have everything on the line. Surely any league would want to create as many of those moments as possible.
It also works as a business. Increasingly, the NBA's bottom line rises and falls with television revenues. What would this do for TV revenues? We know this: America's other prominent single-elimination basketball tournament, the NCAA's March Madness, is about as big a revenue driver as there is in TV sports. At a reported $10.8 billion for 14 years of 63 games, it's hauling in something like $12 million in TV revenues per game."
Dwight Howard is done for the year, but that doesn't mean that the drama is over. In fact, if Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated is right, it might be just beginning.
The future of the Magic is as uncertain as ever thanks to Stan Van Gundy's decision to disclose the inner madness of the Magic's front office sealed Van Gundy's fate, but might have Howard tiring too. Here is what Mannix had to say:
Howard believes Van Gundy lied when he told reporters he knew Howard asked for his dismissal because, a league source familiar with the situation said, he never specifically did. There is no love lost between Howard and Van Gundy but sources close to the All-Star center said it was Orlando's front office that first approached him about canning Van Gundy in December, before the Magic's season deteriorated.
Howard has not forgotten management's silence on the subject, it's refusal to either fire Van Gundy when he hung Howard out to dry or, at the very least, publicly disclose all the facts. Howard quieted rampant speculation about his future when he waived his opt-out clause last month, but there are indications that over the next few months the relationship could sour to the point where Orlando could be forced to explore dealing Howard again.
Yeah, this is where we are headed folk.
Be sure to watch the video in this article from Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel where Magic team doctor, Craig Mintzer explains Dwight Howard's surgery, prognosis for recovery and how the team decided to go the surgery route. The cliff notes:
Magic team doctor Craig Mintzer said Friday that he expects Dwight Howard to make a full recovery after arthoscopic surgery today to repair a herniated disk in his back.
Second-year center Daniel Orton is finally getting his chance to play. Sure, it is thanks to injuries up and down the roster, but opportunity nonetheless.
Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel has a nice write up on the team's reaction to Orton's big game Sunday and where he might go from here with this opportunity:
Daniel Orton was the next-to-last player to return to the Orlando Magic locker room after the team beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 100-84 on Sunday night. He had done a postgame radio interview, the first postgame radio interview of his two-year pro career.
His teammates cheered and yelled when he walked in. Glen Davis doused him with a pitcher of ice water.
"It's a great feeling to know that you have a team behind you and the team has your back," Orton said later. "To have teammates like these that enjoy moments like this, that are proud of you and happy for you, it just feels good. It feels good."
Orton spent 29 minutes on the floor, more than doubling his previous career high. He also scored 11 points, grabbed four rebounds, recorded five steals and blocked three shots — again, all new career highs.
It felt so fulfilling because the past two seasons at times have felt like a nightmare to him.
With the Magic now clinching a Playoff spot, the attention will slowly turn toward that potential matchup in the Playoffs.
Likely it will be the Pacers and both the Magic and the Pacers' fans, at least, are girding up for this potential matchup. A long way is yet to go before it all gets finalized. So why not get some perspective from the Pacers who want to face the Magic as much as the Magic want to face the Pacers?
But why is the third seed all of a sudden so very important? Because many signs are pointing towards Orlando remaining in the sixth seed. And this Orlando team is currently going in the exact opposite direction as the Pacers. The Pacers have won eight of their last ten, while the Magic have lost seven of their last ten.
But it's more than that. The Pacers have seemingly grown closer as a team all season. They have remained an unselfish team and by all accounts seem to be learning from the natural mistakes that are a part of becoming a winning team. The Magic on the other hand, have been dragged through a season by an indecisive superstar who demanded to be traded only to do a complete 360. This was followed up only a couple weeks later with their head coach, Stan Van Gundy, telling the press that Dwight Howard wanted him fired only to have Dwight Howard enter the room moments later. Oh and by the way, Stan Van Gundy will be their coach for the playoffs. I started to feel awkward just writing those last two sentences and I’m not a player in the locker room trying to play through all of this. And we wonder why Jameer Nelson is having a bad season?
With the Magic front office in turmoil, Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel suggests the team should go outside the "family" while reorganizing the front office:
Rich DeVos is a good owner and a great family man.
Unfortunately, when you're running a professional basketball team, there are times when you need to separate the two.
Now is that time for the Orlando Magic.
It is time for DeVos, the Magic's 86-year-old owner, to stop trying to run the Magic like a family-owned business and start running it like a championship sports organization.
Pat Williams was in East Lansing and told the Associated Press that he believes Dwight Howard and Stan Van Gundy can repair their relationship and move on from the most recent spat between star player and coach.
I was over on Crossover Chronicles today hoping that Williams is right and that the two will be able to move forward. But this is not a typical relationship and it feels this situation is beyond salvageable:
That is what you hope would happen in a normal professional relationship. If two people have a disagreement, you hope they can come together, talk about them and move forward. Considering that Van Gundy and Howard are 256-130 (.663 win percentage) in five seasons together, it is a relationship that has been beneficial for both teams.
This is not some normal professional relationship though. This is a relationship where the star player went behind the coach's back -- and maybe even the general manager's back -- to go to ownership and request his coach get fired. This is a relationship where the coach, with little prompting, spilled the beans as to what is going on behind the curtain of a franchise in turmoil.
This is a relationship that seems far beyond the point of saving. This seems like a relationship where it is just time for the parties to mutually split. The Magic have clearly chosen Dwight Howard in this battle of wills between star player and coach.
I will have more on the fallout from Stan Van Gundy's comments tomorrow.
I don't think you are going to find a better explanation of what is really going on behind the scenes at Amway Center than this one from Steve Kyler of HoopsWorld. Honestly I don't think one passage can give you an idea of what it is really about. I will try though (read the whole link):
Let's put a couple of things out there on Magic coach Stan Van Gundy's decision to go public with the "news" that Dwight Howard wants him replaced.
The "source" of the news story that prompted the question on Thursday came from the Magic's own coaching staff. In the weeks leading up to the trade deadline virtually the entire coaching staff was vocal about wanting Dwight Howard traded. They wanted the Magic to deal him to get his voice out of the process. They viewed him as unprofessional and a cancer in the locker room because the coaching staff in Orlando knew that if Dwight stays, they were gone.
Somewhere deep in the depths of the Death Star, the Emperor is cackling. Stan Van Gundy is probably saying to himself, "Strike me down and your journey to the Dark Side will be complete."
Or something like that.
There is a lot of commentary about the complete 180 that Howard has done in the court of public opinion this year. And it seems the latest revelation that Howard asked management to fire Stan Van Gundy at some point this year was the final straw.
Whether he likes it or not (and he doesn't), Howard is the villain as Ian O'Connor of ESPN New York writes:
Dwight Something grew into a somebody, a big somebody, too big for his own good. Thursday, it all ended for Howard. His innocence -- or whatever remained of it -- was shattered like a glass backboard even before he embarrassed himself against the New York Knicks.
At this point, everyone is a little tired of the zoo and firestorm the Magic have become. Most of all Stan Van Gundy. That seemed to be part of his motivation to come forward with his statements from yesterday.
For the first time in his career, Dwight Howard is getting a healthy heaping of blame and is playing the villain role. Whether he is actually the villain in all this is a debate for another post (forthcoming). There is a ton of gray though.
From discussions with many Magic fans and people who follow this team, the biggest frustration has been over Howard's maturity level and the way this story has continued to drag on.
Dwight Howard: Physically imposing, emotionally fragile.
Over the years, there have been many adjectives to describe the Magic center, but timid was never one of them.
Now, after Thursday's bombshell, we know differently.
As a result, a season of reasonable promise in Orlando has spun so far out of control that it's looking more and more as if the Magic will begin the playoffs on the road, possibly with coach Stan Van Gundy kicked to the curb.
On the court, for those 94 feet, during those 48 minutes, Howard can be as decisive as any player in the NBA, throwing it down or swatting it away.
But take him away from the game glare and what you have, apparently, is a player too sensitively weak for the platform he has demanded.
More continues to pour out from behind the scenes in the aftermath of Stan Van Gundy's admission that Dwight Howard wants him fired -- or did at one time, who knows at this point. Van Gundy tried to clarify his comments and move on during the team's practice session. But rumors of something of a divide in the Magic locker room with some supporting Van Gundy and tiring of Howard's antics.
Howard has been calling for the firing of Van Gundy since the summer of 2011, a source close to the coach said, and those demands have included the dismissal of general manager Otis Smith, too. The Magic locker room has been divided for most of the season – most siding with Van Gundy, some with Howard, sources say – and it had reached a critical mass with Howard sitting out losses this week to Denver and Detroit.
"The organization has allowed Dwight to set up the coach," a league source close to management and the coach said. "They have to have a reason to blame someone. If they win, and he gets fired, everyone will know it’s on the player. Losing gives everyone the out when the season’s over, especially Howard."
Wednesday was a busy busy day in the rumor mill for the Magic as ClickOrlando's David Pingalore sparked the rumor mill with his report that Dwight Howard wants Stan Van Gundy and the entire Magic coaching staff gone. That is quite the bombshell. I provided some thoughts on this unfortunate situation for one of the best coaches in the league and why it might simply be time for Orlando and Van Gundy to part ways mutually.
Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don't Lie was pretty incredulous of the thought that Howard wants Stan Van Gundy gone:
"Do a healthy portion of reputable Orlando folk want to disabuse us of the notion of listening to "Local 6 Sports Director David Pingalore" when he tells us that in "order for Dwight Howard to sign a contract extension this summer with the Orlando Magic, team owners will have to fire head coach Stan Van Gundy, as well as his coaching staff"?Sure. Are we guilty of believing that where there's smoke, there's fire? Of course.
But does it make sense that Howard wants absolutely nothing to do with Van Gundy, his staff and his expectations? Definitely. SVG has been Howard's coach for nearly five years now, and while the two have never openly feuded, Van Gundy's exacting style can wear on a soul. A soul that doesn't want to be held accountable. Howard wants to be liked, as much as he wants to win, and it's becoming clearer that the Orlando Magic and Dwight Howard don't deserve a coach as great as Stan Van Gundy."
Probably cannot say it any better than that.
Stan Van Gundy's days with the Magic may be coming to an uncermonious end. With rumors swirling around that the Magic may let Van Gundy go at the end of the year and that Dwight Howard may have been given the power to select his new coach, Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld reports that many in the Magic front office believe Van Gundy may resign at the end of the year instead of take on the Dwight Howard saga all over again.
A source told Orlando Magic Daily that Van Gundy has, at least, considered the possibility of resigning at the end of the year. No final decision has been made and things can obviously change between now and offseason preparations.
"Stan Van Gundy's days with the Orlando Magic may be numbered. The Magic might decide to part ways with Van Gundy after the season in an effort to appease Dwight Howard. However, Orlando may not have the opportunity to fire the 52-year-old head coach.
A growing number of people within the organization believe that Van Gundy will quit after the season, mainly because he doesn't want to go through the Howard circus again next season. Sources close to the situation say that Van Gundy was ready for the organization to move Howard at the trade deadline so that the franchise could move on and once again focus on winning games. He's not interested in going through that drama again next season."
Otis Smith was on a local radio show Friday and said he wants more leadership from Dwight Howard:
"Whether he wants the role [as leader], or they want to give him the role, he has the role," Smith said. "There are no ifs, ands or buts about it, and unfortunately, it falls on your best player, and you're going to get from him whatever you're going to get.
"So whether he wants the role, or not, he has to assume the role. Now, everybody who has the role, it doesn't necessarily mean they know how to deal with the role. But it's his. And he has to learn how to do that."