As I’ve said all year, the Magic are a mess. Whether it’s Dwight Howard cackling on the sidelines while his team trails by double digits, or Hedo Turkoglu looking more disillusioned than Kwame Brown. And today, Stan Van Gundy told the media that Dwight has asked for him to be fired. The news came out that Howard wanted Van Gundy out during today’s shoot-around, and in a weird scene, Howard hugged Van Gundy before he had received the news that his coach had told reporters just moments earlier that his big man wanted him gone. They stood together, while Howard put his arm around Stan, it was an odd, sort of enduring image. Like Nixon with his peace fingers dangling in the air, It’s irony is painful and must-watch at the same time. How can a team this divided manage to win any games, much less one against the Knicks? The answer, like it always is for the Magic, is D12.
In this season of turmoil, Dwight Howard’s averages are near a career high. The problem is that Tyson Chandler is one of three centers that stands any chance against Howard. He’s physical, big and not afraid to play defense against the elite, but Dwight can create for his teammates no matter who his defender is. So once again, their offense will run through Howard, but the load will be on the supporting players. There’s only so much offense one man can create, and Howard’s presence alone should be enough to create for a team known for the 3-point shooting. They have the fourth best 3-point percentage in the league, but when they need their shooters most, they just seem to fail. Tonight is a rare opportunity for the Orlando Magic, after a season that feels like the Real World, they’re still standing. They’re in fifth place in the cluttered East with a chance to make progress. If they can convincingly beat a Knicks team that will be in the playoffs, it’ll prove something about their character that fans have been looking for all year. It’ll prove they can win when it matters, regardless of distractions.