Magic's Howard is a 6-11, 240-pound weasel - NBC Sports

Magic's Howard is a 6-11, 240-pound weasel
Center's demand that Van Gundy be fired another sign of his inmaturity
April 5, 2012, 11:04 pm

Over the years, there have been many adjectives to describe the Magic center, but timid was never one of them.

Now, after Thursday's bombshell, we know differently.

As a result, a season of reasonable promise in Orlando has spun so far out of control that it's looking more and more as if the Magic will begin the playoffs on the road, possibly with coach Stan Van Gundy kicked to the curb.

On the court, for those 94 feet, during those 48 minutes, Howard can be as decisive as any player in the NBA, throwing it down or swatting it away.

But take him away from the game glare and what you have, apparently, is a player too sensitively weak for the platform he has demanded.

This could have been handled so much cleaner, had Howard stood his ground, forced his trade at the March 15 deadline, played the game from a position of strength.

He could have moved on.

The Magic could have moved on.

And Stan Van Gundy wouldn't have had to move on.

Howard was so wishy-washy at the deadline that even as the 11th hour approached, the Nets thought they were going to have a deal for Brook Lopez, MarShon Brooks and other pieces. Just this week, a party familiar with the Nets dealings that week confirmed that Nets general manager Billy King went to bed thinking he might wake up to a deal.

But that would have left Howard as a villain in Central Florida, and perhaps elsewhere, as another LeBron James, turning his back on the only NBA franchise he has ever known.

Thing is, you can't have it both ways.

You either demand a position of power and recognize with such power comes great responsibility, or you, well, just shut up and play the game.

Instead, Howard now comes off, and this sounds almost too bizarre to be saying, as a 6-foot-11, 240-pound, shot-blocking, rim-rattling weasel.

Of course, the one reality almost everyone in the NBA has learned by now is you don't back a Van Gundy into a corner.

Jeff got fed up enough with the corporate culture and left the Knicks. Stan tired of the backroom B.S. with the Heat and turned family time into a short drive up Florida's Turnpike and an eventual trip to an NBA Finals of his own.

And then there was Thursday morning at the Amway Center, in front of the New York media, no less, where Stan either threw Dwight under the bus or merely had tired of Howard driving that bus over his back.

League lore is replete with players pushing for coaching change. Magic Johnson was up front with his efforts with the Lakers, casting them as in the best interest of victory. Michael Jordan set in motion the transition from Doug Collins to Phil Jackson. Shaquille O'Neal was a bit more clandestine with his shrugging off of Stan with the Heat. And even last season, there were early-season rumblings of LeBron James seeking something other than Erik Spoelstra with the Heat.

Van Gundy, of course, played this latest chapter at the perfect time.

The Magic's latest stumble a coaching issue? Heck no, not with the pressure Howard is creating behind the scenes.

Should Van Gundy be shown the door, others would swing open immediately, perhaps even in New York, which made Thursday's Knicks pregame timing all the more curious.

As for the Magic?

A Mickey Mouse organization, where Howard for years has been able to push for personnel moves that have only further strangled Orlando's salary cap, to a degree created this good-but-not-good-enough mess in the first place.

So what happens in free agency this summer? Does Howard sit in during the interview process? Does he just go all Bill Russell and coach the team himself?

And exactly what free agent would want to step into this?

Van Gundy couldn't have played Thursday any better, with his everyman we-all-have-issues-at-work soliloquy.

He threw the ball into the post, made Howard play out of the media double-team.

Now we'll see whether Howard mans up, owns up to who is he, what he wants to be, where he wants to be.

Even at Thursday's moment of truth, when his secret was exposed, Howard ran from the contact.

"Whatever happens at the end of the season is not under my control," he untruthed. "I am a player for the Magic. I am not the GM. I am not Rich DeVos. I am not Alex Martins. So that's not my job.

"So you guys should stop with every other week it's trying to find something, because there's nothing. There's nothing. I haven't said anything to anybody about anything. Our main concern is winning. So all the other stuff should stop."

Had a decision been made at the trading deadline, this would have been a chapter Howard could have avoided. It would have stopped.

Instead, he deferred, tried to pump fake the Magic and Van Gundy.

Now he's in a position as shaky as when he strides to the foul line.

He's in a place so ugly, one wonders whether Jim Gray is warming up in the bullpen.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.

Slideshow

NBC Sports