Magic’s Van Gundy says Dwight Howard asked to have him fired, Howard denies

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Dwight Howard’s plans for bloodless coup just blew up — and just about everybody around the Magic will get hit with shrapnel.

Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy confirmed rumors Thursday saying he knows that Dwight Howard went to management asking he be fired as coach, reports Howard Beck of the New York Times on twitter along multiple other journalists on the scene. Van Gundy said he was told this by people at the top of Orlando management.

Here is the video of the media session at shootaround before the Knicks game Thursday night where all this took place.

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For those that want the highlights, here are Van Gundy’s direct quotes from the video posted by the Magic.

“I was told it was true by people in our management. Right from the top…

“Since everything came out yesterday (referring to the report from Orlando media), you know you’re going to get asked and think about how you’re going to respond and the whole thing. The only thing I’m ever uncomfortable with is bullls***. To come in and ‘no comment’ or deny that it’s true and everything like that… The only thing that ever liberates me is to be honest with what’s out there. Some people have a hard time with that….

“You guys think that’s crazy but that’s honestly the truth,” he said. “I said this before, I don’t care about that stuff. 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 go home and have a good day. What I’m worried about is at 7 o’clock tonight, are we going to be able to guard Carmelo Anthony? That concerns the hell out of me.”

Just to make things painfully awkward, minutes later Howard came over to the media scrum — unaware of what Van Gundy said — and put his arm around the coach, tried to act like they were buddies and started denying everything.

” Guys can stop with, every other week, trying to find something. Because it’s nothing. It’s nothing. I haven’t said anything to anybody about anything. Our main concern is about winning. All that other stuff should stop….

(When confronted that it was Stan Van Gundy who just said Howard wanted him out) “I said that? Who did I say that to? I’m asking you, since you guys have so many sources.”

Um, those sources are now your coach.

Follow this link to see the interview with Stan Van Gundy and Howard on video, it is as uncomfortable as you imagine.

What. A. Mess.

There is no accident that Van Gundy decided to let this slip on the night of a nationally televised TNT game with the New York media in house. That is how you create maximum exposure.

It’s hard to see how Van Gundy doesn’t get fired now, even with just a dozen games left in the season. Van Gundy likely wanted out, but also certainly wanted to get paid the money he is owed for next season (he is under contract until the summer of 2013). To do that he can’t resign, he has to get fired. So… motivation.

I love that Van Gundy refused to play the game by the rules Howard and Orlando management wanted. Howard certainly left himself plausible deniability here — he probably never said anything to management, but the people around him spoke on his behalf. The impact is the same.

Howard has tried hard not to be the bad guy in all of this with Orlando, but that is backfiring. Always was going to if he left town.

Smart money says Magic assistant Patrick Ewing (the former Knick) will get the now impossible interim gig.

The Magic are in a bind — they still have to deal with getting talent to go around Howard and now they need to find a new coach that can make it all work. And good luck getting a top-flight coach to walk into that situation now.

Kevin Durant gets into Twitter debate with reporter over White House comments

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Kevin Durant became the latest Warrior — joining Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston, that we know of — to say he would not visit President Donald Trump’s White House as NBA champion. Which is all kind of moot because it’s unlikely the White House invites them and outspoken Trump critic/Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his players any way. (The White House’s biggest concern should be that Kerr accepts the invitation and uses that platform to challenge the president’s policies and style in front of him.)

Durant’s comments led to plenty of talk on sports talk radio and around the sports world online about whether a player or team should decline an invitation from the president. It’s not a new debate, Tom Brady denied that politics is why he didn’t visit Barack Obama’s White House (although I’m not sure many believed him), but KD’s on a big stage now so it became a talking point.

Former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry questioned a player not visiting the White House, and Durant responded, leading to a little Twitter back-and-forth.

Durant had previously Tweeted in response “by doing the opposite, I am inspiring more people” but that Tweet was deleted.

There is no one correct way to protest a person/policy/action, McHenry may see things differently, but Durant has chosen to stay away. That’s valid — traditionally these “champions to the White House” things are tedious photo ops with a few bad jokes thrown in. Having a hoops fan/player in Obama in the White House made the NBA visits more entertaining the past eight years, there was some trash talk, but still, they are largely just a public relations moment. If KD doesn’t want to play the PR game with Trump, that’s a legitimate response.

This has all been a tempest in a teapot. Until/unless the White House actually invites the Warriors to come, it’s all kind of moot.

Dwight Howard on Hornets’ coach Clifford: “It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you”

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Dwight Howard‘s game is much better than his reputation among fans.

He’s not the Defensive Player of the Year/All-NBA/MVP candidate level player he was back in Orlando, but Howard is still one of the best rebounders in the game, he’s strong defensively, and he’s an efficient scorer inside. He’s a quality center, if he plays within himself and is used well. His perception as a guy who does not take the game seriously and held back Houston and Atlanta in recent years has validity (he plays better in pick-and-roll than on the move, but wants the ball in the post), but the idea he is trash is flat-out wrong. He’s still good.

Howard wants to change his reputation, rewrite the final chapters of his career, and told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Steve Clifford’s Charlotte Hornets are the place that is going to happen.

“The other places I was, the coaches didn’t really know who I am,” Howard told ESPN. “I think that they had perception of me and ran with it. Cliff knows my game. He knows all the things that I can do. I’m very determined to get back to the top. It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you. They aren’t just saying it; they believe it. It really just pushed me to the limit in workouts: running, training, everything. I want to do more.

“In Orlando, I was getting 13-15 shots a game. Last season, in Atlanta, it was six shot attempts. It looks like I’m not involved in the game. And if I miss a shot, it sticks out because I am not getting very many of them. But I think it’s all opportunity, the system. I haven’t had a system where I can be who I am since I was in Orlando.”

Howard averaged 8.3 field goal attempts per game in Atlanta, which is about five a game below his peak. Last season 75 percent of Howard’s shots came within three feet of the rim — is is not there to space the floor, however, he can still move fairly well off the roll and is a good passer for a big.

Last season, 28 percent of Howard’s possessions came on post ups, and he averaged a pedestrian 0.84 points per possession on those. On the 21 percent of shots he got on a cut, he averaged a very good 1.36 PPP. When he got the ball back as a roll man (again on the move), it was 1.18 PPP. The challenge long has been Howard is better on the move but doesn’t feel involved unless he gets post touches, and if he doesn’t feel involved and engaged he’s not the same player.

Maybe Clifford can make this all work with some older plays where Howard feels comfortable.

Charlotte, with Howard in the paint and on the boards, should get back to being a top 10 NBA defensive team, not the middle of the pack as they were last season. Clifford is better than that as a coach, and Howard is an upgrade in the paint (on both ends). Charlotte should be a playoff team again in the East.

But it all will come back to Howard. Fair or not. And Wojnarowski is right, this is Howard’s last best chance to write the ending he wants to his career.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.