Throughout his NBA coaching and broadcasting career, Jeff Van Gundy has been known as a guy who is not afraid to say what he believes. His words may not always be the popular opinion, and he surely has turned some people off with his outspoken views.
But when Van Gundy takes a stance on a serious topic, he is more often that not making a good point.
The Magic and their resident superstar, Dwight Howard, got blown out, 108-86, by the resurgent Knicks. New York, who might be the hottest team in the NBA right now, has gone 8-1 under interim coach Mike Woodson, and it is above .500 for the first time since January.
Linsanity may have died down, but the Knicks are flying high.
Howard and his Magic compadres were not flying high on this night. In fact, he was riding the pine for most of the second half.
When New York scored 21 straight points in the third quarter, Stan Van Gundy decided to sit several starters. Howard and Jameer Nelson were among them.
During a time-out, Howard and Nelson were seen on camera sitting away from the huddle looking disinterested. One was draped with towels, and the other was lounging on the floor.
This drew the ire of Van Gundy, and he sounded off:
I was watching the Magic at that timeout where Howard and Nelson didn’t join the huddle. Last night, Bynum doesn’t join the huddle. When did this become acceptable that you just aren’t a part of it when it’s not going well and you separate yourself like ‘this is not my problem’ or like you don’t support your teammates? The least you can do is just get up. I don’t understand. I read that (Lakers coach) Mike Brown said he didn’t have a rule that Bynum has to get up. Should you need a rule?”
In this scenario, Van Gundy is absolutely right. Some players, like Howard, get to a point in their careers when they think they are bigger than the team. They lose perspective and think they have a right to act like petulant children.
Howard is supposed to be the leader of his team. The Magic's alpha dog whines about the talent around him so often, he has to realize this.
So how can he expect his teammates to follow him and play hard for him when he pulls diva moves like this one? A leader would have been in the huddle supporting his teammates and encouraging them to play hard.
Instead, he shows the world that he really doesn't care about them.
Whenever Howard engages in "me-first" behaviors like this, he is damaging his credibility. Simultaneously, he is hurting his chances of ever winning a championship.
The Magic should be very concerned about that. They have given Howard a boatload of money and the freedom to do as he pleases. As a result, they are caught in a Catch-22.
They believe he is their best chance to win a championship, but they will never win the big one as long as his selfish ways continue. But at the same time, they have given him the money and power to continue his behavior without repercussions.
The NBA needs more coaches and GMs like Jeff Van Gundy to keep players honest. If they did, the league would be a better place.
Unfortunately for the NBA and fans who detest diva-like behavior, the phrase "inmates running the asylum" is an accurate description of David Stern's association.