Orlando Magic v New York Knicks

Stan Van Gundy says he’d have no issue coaching Dwight Howard in the future

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There’s no other way to put it: Last season was a complete train wreck for the Orlando Magic.

Dwight Howard held the team hostage with his trade demands, went back and forth as to whether he would or wouldn’t re-up with the team, and even at one point opted in for the final year of his contract, and one more season with the Magic.

Dwight was ultimately sent to the Lakers over the summer, but not before making it clear that he wanted Stan Van Gundy, his head coach at the time, fired while he was still in the middle of the flip-flopping process.

Things came to a head, as you may recall, during one of the most awkward press conferences of all time.

But now that Van Gundy is out of the coaching game for the time being, he’s had some distance from the situation, and perhaps some time to reflect on how it all went down. And from his perspective, there would be no problem coaching Howard again at some point in the future.

In fact, Van Gundy would welcome it. Here’s what he told Richard Deitsch of SI.com:

SI.com: You’ve said your relationship with Dwight Howard is good, these days, correct?

Van Gundy: Yeah, it is. We’ve been in touch throughout the offseason and throughout his rehab. I’ve kept tabs on what has been going on with him. I’ve said from my standpoint that my thoughts of him are all good. I don’t know how many games we won here in five years but it was a lot and he was a huge factor in that thing. He did a lot for me and he was an easy guy to coach, one of the smartest players I have ever coached. He was coachable and practiced every single day. We had our differences and they became public. Had we been left to handle them on our own, I think things would have been a lot of different.

SI.com: If you had to coach him again, there would be no issue?

Van Gundy: Not from my standpoint. Heck, if I were ever anywhere again and he were available, I’d be knocking down the door of my general manager to do anything to get him.

There’s an obvious joke about Stockholm Syndrome to be made here, but in reality, these remarks are consistent with what we saw from Van Gundy all last season. He’s one of the smartest coaches in the game, and one of the most honest.

Van Gundy truly isn’t one to be bothered by off-the-court drama, and he doesn’t care what the public perception is beyond the game of basketball. It’s part of the reason why it was such a shame to see him have to deal with all that Howard nonsense, but it’s also why he’ll be back coaching in the NBA just as soon as he decides the time is right.

Aaron Gordon both legs over the mascot, ball-under-the-legs dunk (VIDEO)

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TORONTO — Zach LaVine won the NBA All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest, but in an epic night for my money this was the single best dunk.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon broke ground with this one — guys have jumped over mascots and other players before (and a Kia hood), but by splitting their legs apart. Gordon just put both legs over Stuff (that’s the mascot’s name, Stuff the Magic Dragon, I don’t make this up) — and took the ball off the mascot’s head, went under his legs, and threw it down.

Insane.

Gordon deserved a trophy for his performance in this dunk contest.

Zach LaVine edges Aaron Gordon in epic, insane Dunk Contest

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TORONTO — That. Was. Amazing.

In a dunk contest that will go down with the all-time greats — Jordan vs. Dominique, Dr. J from the free throw line — Minnesota’s Zach LaVine defended his dunk contest title. Barely. Because Orlando’s Aaron Gordon was doing dunks nobody had ever seen before.

And LaVine was bringing it just as hard.

The two men advanced to the finals — dismissing Will Barton and Andre Drummond, each of whom had good dunks — and that was when it got wild.

There were four second-round dunks, and four perfect scores of 50. (That was in spite of Shaq, who wanted to give nines for second attempts.)

“I was prepared for four (second round dunks),” LaVine said. “To tell the truth, he came with something that no one else has done. He did two dunks that were just crazy with the mascots, jumping over them. We just kept pushing each other until the last dunk. I’ve got to give it up to my boy Will “The Thrill” Barton. It’s because of him I think I won. Because he said try to go from the free-throw line. I’d never done that before, and I just tried it. So I guess it was a great dunk. I think it was the best one ever.”

The Air Canada Centre crowd was exploding with every dunk. The two men went to a dunk-off — and got two more 50s.

“If I knew it was going to be like that, I would have prepared better and we would have been here dunking all night, going back 50 after 50 after 50 after 50,” Gordon said. “We would have been here all night. I didn’t know it was going to be like that. I was just hoping Zach was going to miss, and it wasn’t going to happen. You could see as my facial expressions when Zach dunks it, it’s like okay, that’s a 50. Like I know we’re going to have to dunk again.”

So they went to a second-round of overtime, where LaVine put up another 50 and won the contest.

Gordon was close to perfect.

Zach LaVine can flat-out fly.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon with the over-the-mascot mad dunk

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TORONTO — Aaron Gordon was giving Zach LaVine all he could handle in the Dunk Contest.

He blew the lid off the Air Canada Centre with this dunk in the first round — and it wasn’t even his best dunk of the night. Never seen this before.

This dunk contest was awesome, so much more video to come.

Zach LaVine opens Slam Dunk Contest title defense with spectacular behind-the-back slam (VIDEO)

during the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge 2016 at Air Canada Centre on February 12, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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TORONTO — Zach LaVine clearly heard all the talk that Aaron Gordon or Will Barton had a chance to upset him in the Slam Dunk Contest. He came out ready to prove his superiority right off the bat. This behind-the-back slam was his first attempt of the night:

Even better was the reaction, both from Andre Drummond and from LaVine’s Minnesota teammates: