NBA Saturday: The Howard, Van Gundy Relationship
It’s no secret that Dwight Howard and Stan Van Gundy don’t always see eye-to-eye. Last season, Howard approached Van Gundy and asked him to tone down on the negativity and criticism that he often directs at his players.
That has always been Van Gundy’s style, but Howard felt that he and his Orlando Magic teammates would respond better to a different, more positive approach. The constant barking is fine when a team is winning, but that style of coaching gets old and becomes less effective when a team is struggling.
Entering this season, Howard wanted to make sure that he and Van Gundy were still on the same page. He initiated an hour-long meeting with the head coach earlier this week and both men said that the chat was very productive.
“Me and Stan did have a long talk,” Howard said. “One thing that I told Stan is that we both have to be on the same page no matter what happens on the court. We have to show the team that we’re on the same page. I thought it was great.”
During the team’s second preseason game against the Miami HEAT, Van Gundy tried to be less hands-on and focus primarily on calling plays. Howard, with help from Jameer Nelson, led the Magic and encouraged his teammates instead of barking at them.
“He let me and Jameer lead the team,” Howard said. “He called the plays and all of that stuff, but he let me and Jameer do what we’re supposed to do on the court. We made sure everyone played hard and stayed focused on the game. I told Stan that we need to have a great relationship and that our relationship has to grow in order for us to get to where we want to go. We have to be the leaders for this team.”
Van Gundy is also known around the league for his long practices. It’s not uncommon for one of the Magic’s practices to last over three hours. While that extra preparation is part of the reason Orlando has won 50-plus game for each of the last four seasons, players become frustrated, especially when they come from other teams that spent significantly less time in the practice facility.
Howard’s decision to meet with Van Gundy shows that he’s committed to winning with the Magic this season and suggests that his stint in Orlando may not be coming to an end in the immediate future. With trade rumors abound, Howard is doing his best to focus on this season and things he can control.
“It’s still tough, but I’m just taking it one game at a time,” Howard said. “I’m staying focused and I know that this is a process. I’m just going to continue to grow and continue to play. The court is my sanctuary. It’s just getting back to business. It may take awhile because of the quick turnaround, but we’ll get it going. I’m just going to continue to have fun and hopefully the fans can stay behind me and our team as we make this push throughout the short season. That’s going to be key – it’s going to take everybody.”
Everybody will play a role in Orlando’s success, but Howard and Van Gundy are the two biggest pieces to the puzzle. If they aren’t on the same page, this shortened season will feel very long for the Magic.
Paul Enjoying Los Angeles: There are plenty of perks that come with playing for a large-market franchise. After Carmelo Anthony was traded to the New York Knicks, he appeared on several television shows and became much more visible. Now, after being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers, Chris Paul is doing the exact same thing.
Last night, Paul was on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, alongside movie star Jonah Hill. That’s an experience he never would have had in New Orleans, especially one night before the season opens. Paul discussed the trade and how chaotic the transition from the Hornets to Clippers has been.
“The trade happened when I was at home and I left at 5 a.m. the next morning,” Paul said. “Me and my brother got on a plane and flew here to L.A. I haven’t seen my son since the trade went through. I packed two bags: one full of clothes and one full of shoes. Nothing else.”
Hill, who is a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, wasn’t happy that David Stern vetoed the three-team deal that would have had Paul donning purple and gold. He didn’t hide that fact and joked that the Clippers’ two preseason wins over the Lakers were “a fluke and another fluke.”
Paul made it clear that this was the best situation for him and insisted that he couldn’t be more excited.
“I’m very happy,” Paul said with a smile. “There were trades and different things that took place, but it all worked out for the best in the end. I’m so blessed and fortunate to be in the situation that I’m in, and to now be a Los Angeles Clipper is truly a dream come true.”
Over the years, Leno has poked fun at the Clippers. Paul said that the negative jokes are now a thing of the past and read some examples of Leno bashing the team.
“I’ve watched you and taken note of a couple of your jokes,” Paul said. “That’s enough with the Clipper jokes. Enough is enough. We haven’t started winning yet, but that is the plan. Enough is enough.”
“This is what you said, ‘This is depressing. The NBA has canceled two more weeks of games. You know what that means? This could end up being the Clippers’ best season ever,’” Paul said before staring down Leno. “This is you again, ‘We have Will Ferrell on the show tonight. He is in a new basketball movie called Semi-Pro. It’s about the Clippers.’ This is the last one and cut it off with the drums because it’s not that funny; ‘The NBA playoffs start this weekend. The Knicks will be playing the Celtics, the Grizzlies will be playing the Spurs and the Clippers will be playing Angry Birds.’ No more of that!”
The Clippers haven’t even won a game and Paul is already enjoying the benefits that Los Angeles has to offer.
Ebanks Starting for Lakers: The Los Angeles Lakers have decided to make Devin Ebanks their starting small forward. The second-year player will jump ahead of Matt Barnes and Metta World Peace on the depth chart and play with the first unit in the Lakers’ season opener against the Chicago Bulls on Sunday.
Entering the season, Ebanks wasn’t even a lock to make the roster one year after being selected with the 43rd overall pick in the NBA Draft. The Lakers could have waived the 22-year-old’s $736,420 contract, especially after signing three forwards this summer in Josh McRoberts, Jason Kapono and Troy Murphy.
Ebanks first turned heads last year during the Las Vegas Summer League, averaging 15 points and 3.6 rebounds. Last season, he was nearly given more minutes, but the coaching staff ultimately determined he wasn’t ready. Then, last March, Ebanks suffered a season-ending stress fracture on his left tibia.
Last year, Ebanks averaged 3.1 points, but played in just 20 games. His best game was against the Sacramento Kings last December, when he scored nine points in nine minutes off of the Lakers’ bench.
He worked extremely hard during the lockout, improving his jump shot and expanding his game. Ebanks spent most of his time in Washington, D.C. but also visited training sites in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. He impressed all of the right people during training camp and played well during both preseason games.
Now, the starting small forward job will be his to lose. Not bad for the lowest-paid player on the team.
HOOPSWORLD Chats: There is only one chat on today’s schedule. Susan Bible’s weekly chat will get underway at 11 p.m. ET. Make sure to submit your questions early because this chat fills up fast. To view HOOPSWORLD”s upcoming chat schedule, click here.