Dwight Howard Feud with Stan Van Gundy Embodies Epidemic of Players Running NBA

Nicholas Goss@@NicholasGoss35Correspondent IApril 5, 2012

ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 11:  Dwight Howard #12 listens to head coach Stan Van Gundy of the Orlando Magic in Game Four of the 2009 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers on June 11, 2009 at Amway Arena in Orlando, Florida.  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.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Dwight Howard reportedly asking the Orlando Magic to fire head coach Stan Van Gundy embodies the epidemic of players running the NBA.

Van Gundy wasn't afraid to address the rumors on Thursday, and even confirmed the reports.

"I was told it was true by people in our management," Van Gundy said Thursday, just hours before the Magic hosted the New York Knicks. "So right from the top."

Even though one of the objectives of the new CBA constructed late last year was to help smaller-market teams, or any team for that matter, from being bullied by superstars, the players still have nearly all the power.

Almost nothing has changed. Players still get coaches fired, and they still hold their teams hostage at the trade deadline by not signing extensions and flip-flopping on their plans for the future.

It's a dangerous situation that's ruining the NBA. Let's break down the problem plaguing pro basketball. 

Coaches are at the mercy of the players

The decision to fire a head coach should be purely based on the team's performance, not what a star player demands. 

If the Magic don't think Van Gundy can lead the team back to the NBA Finals and is doing a poor job improving the team, then the decision to fire him makes sense.

However, if the reason the Magic are contemplating firing Van Gundy is because Howard doesn't want him there, then the team is making a terrible mistake.

This whole situation further proves that the players run the league, and that their demands and wishes are satisfied way more often than players in any other sport.

The reason why players have the audacity to ask management to fire a coach is because they have seen other players try this and be successful at it.

CLEVELAND - DECEMBER 9:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers stands next to his head coach Mike Brown during the game against the Indiana Pacers on December 9, 2006 at The Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers won 107-75. NOTE TO U
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

After their 2009-10 season ended in disappointing fashion for the Cleveland Cavaliers, they fired head coach Mike Brown. The move was clearly not about the team's performance, since Brown led the Cavs deep into the playoffs numerous times.

The move was made to please superstar forward LeBron James, who the Cavaliers were desperate to keep. The team seemed willing to do anything in order to keep James in Cleveland.

The move proved to be disastrous when James took his talents to South Beach and joined the Miami Heat as a free agent, leaving the Cavs with no superstar and no coach. They had to hire Byron Scott to take over the team, but he is a far worse coach than Brown, who is a defensive genius.

Marc Berman's New York Post story from May 25, 2010, explained James' power in Cleveland very well.

If the Cavaliers hire a new coach before the start of free agency on July 1, it probably is not a good sign for the Knicks—it probably means LeBron James endorsed the pick and is staying put.

Sunday night’s firing of coach Mike Brown was the first step in what Cavaliers management hopes is the healing process that will ultimately lead to James’ return to Cleveland. Multiple league sources expect the team to wait until July to find out King James’ intentions before making a hire.

"They almost have to wait, simply because the candidates would be different depending on what LeBron does," one league source said.

The Cavaliers gave James too much power, and the Magic are doing the same with Howard. Allowing the players to greatly influence the coaching decisions is bad for the team because the players obviously aren't qualified to make these kinds of changes.

By trying to appease the players, teams have lost a lot of their power and are at the mercy of their superstars. Until teams refuse to allow the players to bully them into making risky coaching changes, this problem will never be corrected.

NBA trades are a disaster

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 14:  Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks looks on against the Portland Trail Blazers at Madison Square Garden on March 14, 2012 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or u
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

When superstars are set to become free agents in the summer, teams have no choice but to throw themselves at the mercy of the player's demands. 

Star players in the NBA don't want to play in small markets because those teams aren't consistently competitive and they don't have the same lucrative marketing opportunities that the large markets do.

The new CBA tried to address the problems with small markets keeping their stars, but not much progress was made. Part of the new CBA allows teams to sign their star players for more money over more years than other teams can. 

This method, however, is incredibly ineffective because whatever money players lose by not re-signing with their small market teams, they will make up in rich endorsement deals in large markets.

There is no extra incentive for players to re-sign in smaller markets when they can win and make just as much or more money playing for a better team on a bigger stage.

Since this is the situation the NBA is in, star players get to choose which teams they want to go to. Last year, Carmelo Anthony forced the Denver Nuggets' hand when it came time to make a decision on his future because he wanted to go to the New York Knicks. 

Anthony was unwilling to sign an extension with any other team, so the Nuggets weren't going to find a trade partner willing to give up a lot of value when he could leave that team in the summer for nothing.

This means that teams must settle for far less value in return for their superstar than they would like, since the players won't re-sign for a team that can give back the best trade package, because many of those teams aren't playoff contenders or in a large market.

How do we fix the system?

Basketball needs more stars like Durant (left) and Westbrook
Basketball needs more stars like Durant (left) and WestbrookRonald Martinez/Getty Images

The NBA should adopt a similar model to the NHL system. The NBA should have put in an age-restriction into the new CBA that prevents players from becoming unrestricted free agents until they are 27 years old or have been in the league for at least seven years.

This would prevent teams from losing their stars before they have hit their prime, which allows them to establish a winner product that the star player may want to be a part of long-term.

Even though it's unlikely that the players would agree to a model like this when it's time to construct a new CBA, it's one of the few ways that teams will be able to retain their star players longer and not be bullied by them at the trade deadline.

The players have all the power in the NBA and they run the league. Everyone from the players to the owners are to blame.

For fans who don't live in large markets, there's not much your team can do until the next CBA is constructed. Very little can be done to change the system that gives the players almost all the power, and as a consequence, the NBA could struggle mightily in most of its cities.

For now, we can only hope that more stars act like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder and pledge their future to a small-market team.

Unfortunately, very few athletes are as loyal as Durant and Westbrook in today's NBA.

Nicholas Goss is an NBA and NHL Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. 


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