Did Orlando Make the Right Call Siding with Dwight Howard over Stan Van Gundy?
The answer is yes.
First, a dirty (open) secret about NBA coaches. While celebrated and paid handsomely, they are not the most essential components in building a team. Unless we're talking about Gregg Popovich, a man whose success was greatly augmented by lucking into Tim Duncan, there aren't many clipboard carriers who are single-handedly worth trading a superstar for.
Stan Van Gundy is an excellent coach, and he deserves a good job in the wake of this. But he is by no means someone a team should choose over a superstar.
Van Gundy demonstrated as much in May, when the Orlando Magic meekly trundled out of the 2012 NBA playoffs against the Indiana Pacers. You can't coach non-elite talents into providing what basketball's best defensive player brings.
While Dwight Howard could certainly leave anyway this offseason, Orlando should be doing everything in its power to retain him—pain in the ass as he is. Why? Because superstars are underpaid, due to the CBA's max-contract provision.
There is no equal value for trading Dwight Howard, unless the Lakers decide to part with Andrew Bynum. If Jim Buss votes against this plan—and remember, Bynum is Buss' guy—then Orlando will have a hard time trading a year of Howard for anything in particular.
If there is no trade and Dwight Howard leaves? It's not the worst scenario in the world, contrary to those who screech that Orlando must trade Dwight. A blank slate is a chance to bottom out and rebuild your roster. I see little reason to desperately shop Dwight for a shot at a future No. 8 Eastern Conference seed.
What the Magic did with Van Gundy's release, is buy themselves a little more of a chance to sign their superstar—should they choose to try. I can't argue with such a move any more than I can argue with firing Otis Smith. My only complaint is that the latter decision should have come earlier.
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