While many media members buddy up with Dwight Howard because of his outgoing personality, Jeff Van Gundy is not falling for the act. Van Gundy believes that Howard got his brother, former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, fired in Orlando, and he’s not afraid to call out Howard when he feels it is necessary.
During the second quarter of Friday’s Oklahoma City Thunder-Los Angeles Lakers game, Van Gundy called out Howard on several accounts. His criticism was inspired by a possession in which the Lakers’ reserves shared the ball on an offensive possession, which is different from the way the starters operate.
“Did you see how the ball moved?” Van Gundy asked rhetorically. “There was no agenda. There was no pouting if they didn’t touch it. The ball just moved freely. And when the ball moves freely, everyone feels good.
“And let’s face it, let’s not beat around the bush: Some of Dwight Howard’s comments about having to play together? Those are veiled shots at Kobe Bryant,” said Van Gundy. “And to me, I would have much rather seen Howard go into the locker room and say, ‘Hey, listen, I think we need to do this, this, and this.’
“You don’t go in the media and take veiled shots at Kobe Bryant! I guarantee he thought the grass was greener other than Orlando. Now he’s disenchanted with his offensive role [on the Lakers] it seems. When’s the guy going to be happy?”
The “veiled shots” to which Van Gundy is referring came after the Lakers lost to the Clippers earlier this month.
“Those guys on the Clippers team, they really enjoy each other off the court and it shows,” Howard said.
“It really starts off the court. I think you have to have that relationship and that chemistry off the court for it to really blossom on the court. It takes time to develop that. You just don’t come together and then expect to be best friends right away. It just doesn’t happen like that.”
Howard’s comments complaining about the Lakers’ chemistry came a few days after he and Kobe reportedly got into a fight after a loss to the 76ers.
Though Van Gundy makes several good points, it should be noted that Howard originally did not want to go to the Lakers because he was worried about being a secondary option behind Bryant, so it’s not like this was his first choice. However, Van Gundy’s dissection of Howard venting to the media about chemistry issues is on the mark.
When Van Gundy’s partner, Mike Breen, talked about Howard and Bryant working out their issues, Van Gundy disagreed.
“I’m not buying that,” Van Gundy cut in. “I’m not buying that Twitter picture. When you have to go and start taking pictures to say that your relationship is OK, I guarantee you your relationship is flawed.
“They don’t have to be best friends. They don’t have to like each other. You don’t have to announce that you’re friends because you don’t need to be friends. You need work well together and get good results. That’s what you need to do.
“And believe me, if Dwight Howard took on Kobe Bryant’s serious-minded mentality, everybody here would be better served.”
Van Gundy saying Dwight needs to be more serious is not a surprise. You may recall that Van Gundy said in 2011 that the Orlando Magic had too many clowns on their team.
After ripping into Howard a good amount, Breen asked for Van Gundy’s assessment of what Bryant needs to do better.
“He’s got to guard better. Not individually, because when he’s put on a primary scorer, his focus defensively one-on-one is very good. But off the ball, [he makes] too many mistakes in transition and too many gambles in the half court.
“I think he has to sacrifice some shots to get Howard the ball more since he knows that’s important to Dwight Howard.”
Is there any doubt why NBA teams with coaching vacancies often seek to interview Van Gundy? The man doesn’t fool around and just calls it like he sees it. Sure, he is a little biased because of how Howard treated his brother in Orlando, but it’s hard to disagree with most of his analysis.
Related: Jeff Van Gundy rips Dwight Howard for ignoring team huddle
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