As the Orlando Magic put the Stan Van Gundy/Otis Smith era to bed, the question some fans and media will ponder is who’s the blame for this mess?
In our blame-laying society, what we don’t want to hear is that everyone is at fault, at least a little, but it’s the truth.
Here’s the blame breakdown:
Stan Van Gundy- If you are going to be abrasive to players and publicly critical to your sensitive superstar (especially in the NBA, home of sports most pampered players), than you better win. And I don’t mean get to the playoffs each season, as Stan Van did; you better bring home the Larry O’ Brien. Let’s be honest, the Magic getting to the NBA Finals in 2009 was the beginning of the end. A poor decision by Van Gundy to play Jameer Nelson instead of Rafer Alston and a determined Laker team left a bad taste in mouths of the Magic. Stan Van’s behavior only made it worse.
Otis Smith- Flat out, Smith didn’t consistently build a team around Dwight Howard that could win a title. Their best team was the 2009 NBA Finals runner-up and it’s debatable if they were good enough. Great NBA teams are like sand through an hour glass, you have but so much time to get the job done before circumstances change and you have nothing left. Trading for Vince Carter and letting Hedo Turkoglu and Rafer Alston truly started them on this path.
Dwight Howard- The big guy is great and it would be terrible to see Orlando lose another once-in-a-generational talent, Howard’s maturity is surely in question. Do you think that Michael Jordan would have semi-publicly complained about wanting to be in a bigger market? Or to play with other well-known stars in the league? Or feel that his smaller market was stifling his stardom? No. He would just play, lift up his team and choke out John Paxton on occasion. The point is Howard seemingly wants to maintain the “aw shucks” persona, while driving for the highest level of stardom and not always being committed to winning. And I think it rubs people the wrong way, including his former coach. Can’t blame him for wanting to be a star or securing his future, but you gotta produce.
The City of Orlando- Yes, you are part of it as well. There’s something about you that makes players want to break up with you. Look in the mirror, figure it out.