It’s Howard’s talent the team has been built around, and it’s his personality that they take after.
The big man usually commands a double team in the post, so a lot of the players Orlando management has filled its roster with have been wing players that can hang around the outside, catch the kick-out and shoot three-pointers.
They include guys like Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, Ryan Anderson, J.J. Redick, Vince Carter and Jason Richardson.
And just like Howard has always seemed like the smiling, fun-loving center, the Magic have been a fun team to watch. They love to get out on the fast break, and they score a lot of points because they hit a lot of three-pointers.
So it should be obvious that Howard’s indecision and overall change in attitude have become disastrous distractions to the team and have manifested themselves in the club’s play.
The questions and contradictions have been prevalent since the lockout was lifted.
All offseason, the debate was whether the Magic would keep him or trade him. There was rumor and refute that Howard had asked for a trade. There was question as to which teams Howard had or had not said he would sign an extension with, or if any such list even existed. There was even tampering accusations that, of course, were downplayed by Howard himself.
There was the disaster around the trade deadline where it seemed like Howard had changed his mind every other hour about whether he would sign his option to stay with the team through next season or not.
And now there is the incident with head coach Stan Van Gundy. There was a report that Howard had asked the Magic to fire Van Gundy. The ever-quotable coach even admitted that people in the team’s management had told him the rumor was true. Yet Howard strolled over and vehemently denied it.
Someone is lying.
Amidst all the rumors, all the questions, the whole circus of the ordeal Howard and Van Gundy have insisted nothing changes about the way the team goes about its business, that the game at hand is what they are focused on, no matter how much they have to answer those questions.
But really, have the Magic been an example of an efficient, consistent team?
The explanation is in the results. The flip-flopping of the reported Howard situation is parallel to the inconsistency of the Magic games this season.
The team can go from a five-game winning streak (Jan. 8-17) to losing four in a row nine days later.
They can look downright pathetic in losses to the Celtics and Bulls, where they score fewer than 60 points in a game (56 and 59 points, respectively) to scoring over 100 points in victories starting the following night (102 and 103).
Nothing about this team’s season has made much sense; not the way in which the pieces were put together, the inconsistencies the team shows, or how despite the media debacle the Howard situation has become, that the team was a top-three team in the East for most of the season.
None of it makes sense until you realize that Howard is the face of the franchise. Really, the organization has taken after him and his lack of conviction of staying or going or being a good team or a bad one.
Since he has picked up his player option for next year, it doesn’t seem like calmer tides are in store in the near future, either.