Stan Van Gundy still communicates with the player who was most responsible for him being successful with the Orlando Magic, and the same guy who was chiefly responsible for him being fired. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Van Gundy said he still exchanges friendly text messages with Dwight Howard.
In the interview, Van Gundy discussed Howard’s status with the Los Angeles Lakers and shared two noteworthy opinions. The former Magic coach says Howard, who is coming off back surgery, does not look like the same player. He also says Howard is adjusting to being a secondary offensive option on the Lakers.
“I don’t think he looks quite as explosive or as quick as he has in the past,” Van Gundy told the Times’ Ben Bolch. “Now, he’s still above almost everyone in the league at that size athletically, but he has not totally looked like himself to me.”
Howard stopped playing for the Magic in April because of his back injury, and he underwent surgery for it later in the month. It wasn’t certain whether he would even be ready to play when the season began, but Howard was out there. Howard even admitted recently that he’s not at full strength, and said doctors told him it would take nine months to regain strength in his legs.
Back injury aside, Van Gundy says Howard has a big mental adjustment he’s making.
“It’s a big adjustment for him going from being the guy to not only being the No. 2 guy but really a No. 2 guy that really doesn’t get the ball very much at all,” Van Gundy said. “It’s a different deal and an adjustment he has to make. Those kind of things take time.”
Van Gundy thinks Howard can and will make the adjustment, but he just pointed out that it takes time. Andrew Bynum also made similar comments recently when analyzing the Lakers. He said Howard would have to make the same adjustment.
Van Gundy doesn’t seem to have any hard feelings toward Howard.
“Dwight and my time in Orlando, I thought the relationship was good, worked well, produced results and that’s what player-coach relationships in this league should be about, are the results that they get and the results here were good, mainly because Dwight’s as good as he is. He’s a great, great player and I have a great appreciation for what he did for our teams and for me as a coach.”
That’s a nice way to reflect on things, especially considering Howard is the big reason he lost his job in Orlando. But like he says, Howard is also the biggest reason he had success there.
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