Originally posted on The Daily Rival  |  Last updated 4/6/12

Never mind about whether was appropriate for Stan Van Gundy to expose Dwight Howard. It’s out in the open now. Might as well discuss it.

“It” was a rather telling sequence with Van Gundy and Howard after the Magic’s Thursday morning shootaround. It started when Van Gundy was asked by the media about a report earlier this week that said Howard wanted him out as head coach, and he was candid with his response.

“I was told it was true by people in our management,” Van Gundy said, sipping on a Diet Pepsi. “I’m the coach right now, and I’m the coach until they decide I’m not the coach.

“It’s 12:02 right now. If they want to fire me at 12:05, I’ll go home and find something to do. I’ll have a good day. I’m not worried about that at all.”

Mere minutes later, Howard sauntered in, interrupted Van Gundy’s press gaggle and put his arm around his beleaguered coach, unaware of what Van Gundy had just said. Soon after, Van Gundy exits, leaving Howard to face the media firing squad and handle their pretty straightforward questions rather awkwardly:

Reporter: Dwight, are the stories true?

Howard: C’mon, man. (sarcastically) Yeah, the stories from (WKMG sports reporter) Dave (Pingalore) are true.

Reporter 2: Stan said they were true.

Howard: Yeah, what’s true?

Reporter 2: Stan just said you wanted him fired.

Howard: I said that?

Reporter 2: Yeah, that’s what Stan said.

Howard: Who’d I say that to?

Reporter 2: I don’t know, I’m just –

Howard: I’m asking you, since you guys got so many sources.

And on and on. To see this hilarious, awkward, contradictory, comedic, baffling, bizarre turn of events, you can check out the video here. It was like a failed Abbot and Costello routine.

This whole thing is a soap opera, really. And, clearly, we have a “he said, he said” situation here. Van Gundy says he’s been told Dwight wants him gone whereas Dwight denies any assertion that says he wants Van Gundy gone. Who do you believe? Personally, I lean toward not believing the guy who’s previously been reported as instructing the franchise on what moves to make, ranging from recommending players to bring in to suggesting preferred destinations to send him to — almost everything except actually relocating the franchise.

The thing about Howard is he desperately wants people to like him. And he was doing a fine job of that by throwing on a Superman cape and battling Nate Robinson in the dunk contest. Sure, he was stealing Shaq’s schtick, but we didn’t care. He was jumping really high. He was charismatic about it. Plus, WHO DOESN’T LIKE A COSTUME PARTY?

But over the last year, as his trade-demand saga unfolded, his image has been stained. With the pieces falling into place not quite like he expected, Dwight last month pulled the plug on his farewell tour (for now — because nobody outside of Orlando thinks he was to stay there permanantly), saying he wants to stay in Orlando to help the Magic win a title. Because there’s no good-bye present quite like a championship. It helps soften the blow of your imminent departure. Albert Pujols knows what I’m talking about. Howard’s decision to stay in Orlando was a procrastination tactic just as much as it was a PR tactic.

Little does Howard know he’s single handedly ruined the Orlando Magic, being a distraction all season long and throwing a pretty decent coach under the bus. Of course Dwight doesn’t want to be seen as a coach killer. Yet his failed attempt at damage control on Thursday was another example of Dwight trying to save face. It was pretty embarrassing honestly. Or, at least, I felt embarrassed for him. I don’t know about you, but my opinion about Howard changed on Thursday.

It’s funny that Howard is trying so hard to remain liked, because this recent episode makes me not like him.

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