It's been an odd season in Orlando.
With dramatic twists at every turn, the never-ending saga of Dwight Howard and Stan Van Gundy has played out all season. Again and again and again. What was it like for the other Magic players? While teammates generally keep quiet about things like this, or dole out politically correct prepared responses that don't ever really shed light on anything, J.J. Redick recently sat down with Russ Thaler of NBC Sports Talk and discussed his season.
Redick didn't come out and take a side or trash anyone, but he did give a glimpse into the distraction that this mess created for everyone in the Orlando locker room. He also discussed that practice scrum when Van Gundy told reporters he knew that Howard was trying to get him fired, only to have Howard come over and put his arm around Van Gundy before Van Gundy dipped from the scrum, leaving Howard to trip over himself trying to deflect questions about the sticky situation.
It was especially interesting to see how players found out about what was going on. Via text messages and Twitter, fans and friends informed the Magic players that the secret was out: Howard allegedly wanted Van Gundy fired, Van Gundy knew and Howard was denying it. Sounds like a soap opera. Listening to Redick describe how the relationship between the two changed in March, it sounds more like a television drama than NBA basketball.
Here are his quotes, via Pro Basketball Talk:
"Within the team I think our perception has changed a little bit. I don’t see any way it couldn’t. But I am a Dwight supporter, I played with him for six years, I’ve been through some battles with him, won a lot of games tagging along side of him. He has been great for our organization.
"I think as anyone can attest, sometimes we get confused in life. Sometimes we get bad advice. I think Dwight at his core, at his heart is a great kid, a great person. Maybe he just got a little confused, a little sidetracked about what was important and then at the end of the year he gets hurt and can’t play. It wasn’t a great year for him. I’m sure he’ll bounce back, get healthy and have a great year next year."
Interesting to see the 27-year-old Redick refer to 26-year-old Howard as "a great kid, a great person." Howard has always come across as a giant kid, but it's time to face reality. He's still young, but at 26 and with the power to paralyze a franchise over his actions, it's time to leave the child's play alone.
On Howard’s relationship with Stan Van Gundy:
"To be honest with you, it didn’t seem worse or better than any other year. Those two have built a relationship based on winning and before things really started to turn for us we were 32-18 and had the fifth best record in the league. So for 50 of the 66 games this year that relationship was pretty solid.
"I’m not sure what happened and what transpired with management, with Dwight’s alleged request for Stan to get fired, I’m not privy to all the inside information. Certainly at some point that relationship started to change a little bit in March, and from that point on things got weird."
Weird is one way to delicately put it. When it's publicly known that coach and star player are not on good terms and that one wants the other fired, it's got to be a strange dynamic in the locker room and during practices. It's a testament to everyone involved that they were able to focus on the games in front of them and not get too caught up in what was happening off court.
About the press conference where Van Gundy said Howard wanted him fired, then Howard unknowingly walked in on it:
“We were all a little shocked. I cold plunge right after shootaround (take an ice bath). I had got my shots up after shootaround and had sort of seen Stan talking to the media and everything seemed normal from afar. Well I went back, grabbed my phone and jumped in the cold plunge and I have like 15 text messages and my twitter account is blowing up with 'What did Stan just do?' So I pulled up the video and saw it. By the time I got out of the cold plunge and back in the locker room all the guys on the team knew what was going on.
“It was a little shocking in that it’s not something you see every day, obviously. I think Stan, for whatever reason, just decided to put it all out there. He said in the interview he is not a fan of BS and I can attest to that having played with him for five years. He doesn’t like BS and decided not to BS with the media, I guess.”
It isn't surprising that the news spread like wildfire through Twitter and text messages. That's the social world that we live in these days. Still, it's especially interesting to hear a player outline how a moment like this unfolded for those who were in the gym, only a few feet away, without realizing what was going down.
I doubt we'll ever see a press conference moment like the one we saw between Van Gundy and Howard. It's also probable that Redick will be the only Magic player to talk on the record about that moment. While he doesn't tell us anything crazy and we could all assume things were weird this season, it's always nice to hear it from someone on the inside.
In the end, the Magic need to sort this situation out. If history is any indication of how this will go, Van Gundy will be out despite his stellar resume. What else can the Magic do? Part with the player they've spent the past eight seasons bending over backward for?