Whether it’s because he plays in Orlando or because he’s a center, it does not seem like Magic center Dwight Howard gets the respect he deserves when it comes to the debate of the best players in the NBA. He has Shaq badgering him about the Superman nickname and then there supposedly is a Magic player who said the team was better without Dwight. Even if that’s just the perception, Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy has turned the question into reality by openly vouching for Dwight’s MVP candidacy on numerous occasions. At the same time, Van Gundy said LeBron will win MVP as long as he’s around. Apparently that line of thinking got into the head of Howard because he didn’t even have LeBron in his top two spots for NBA MVP. Here’s what Howard said during a Tuesday interview on PTI:
Dwight Howard and Shaq have had a much-publicized feud over the nickname Superman. Shaq branded himself “Superman” around 15-years-ago, capping it off with an “S” tattoo and the words “Man of Steel” written on his arm. He even specially designed a Range Rover that had a Superman “S” on it. There is no doubt that Shaq was the first Superman in this feud but the story got cloudy a few years ago. Dwight Howard wore a Superman cape and came out of a phone booth to dunk at the dunk competition two years ago and the Superman moniker has stuck since then. Not wanting to fade out of the spotlight, Shaq has taken exception to this nickname and dissed Howard after the Cavs beat the Magic Thursday. As a result, Dwight says he doesn’t want a fight with Shaq and he’s willing to change nicknames:
I wouldn’t even call this backing down so much as it is giving credit to your forefathers. In this same vain, LaDainian Tomlinson never should have allowed the LT nickname to catch on; there’s only one, and he used to tear quarterback’s heads off and wear #56 for the Giants.
UPDATE: Dwight Howard says he’s changing nicknames
Even at 38-years-old, Shaq is reluctant to cede the title of most dominant center in the NBA. Prior to Thursday’s Cavs/Magic game, Shaq said there’s really three good centers in the NBA — two were playing in Cleveland (Shaq and Dwight Howard), and the third was injured (Yao Ming). Going back to last year, Shaq and Howard had some beef when Shaq (accurately) accused Dwight Howard of stealing the “Superman” nickname. Later when the their teams met, criticism was heightened when Shaq was accused of flopping. On Thursday night, the game was tied at 96 with five minutes left. While Shaq took an alleyoop pass from LeBron James to give Cleveland the lead for good, Dwight failed to score over the final seven and a half minutes. That prompted some serious comments from Shaq who was upset after the game over being double-teamed. The comments via Brian Windhorst’s twitter:
Shaq on Dwight Howard: “Superman my ass.”
Shaq on getting doubled but not doubling Howard: “When I was coming up and there was Ewing and Hakeem, I never doubled anybody. You tell me who the real Superman is. Don’t compare me to anybody. I’d rather not be mentioned. I’m offended. Hakeem, Ewing, Rik Smits, Duncan, Robinson, the best of the best, straight up. I never doubled nobody.”
I guess Shaq wasn’t getting enough attention for a 13-game winning streak so he figured some words were necessary to steal the spotlight. While I’m not fond of Shaq’s ego-feeding ways, especially at the expense of others, there’s no doubt that this was a statement win by the Cavs. Howard ate them up in the Conference Finals last year but now they have a weapon to match him.
One of the topics I hit on for my show Friday overnight was that the Nuggets and Magic could be standing in the way of the much-hyped Lakers/Cavs showdown in the NBA Finals. With the Lakers taking Game 3 in Denver, it appears as if they have control of the series. But with the Magic going up 2-1 and home for Game 4, it appears as if they could upset the top-seeded Cavs. While I’m just an outsider looking in on things with nothing at stake, Dwight Howard is letting people know what it’s like to be the leader of a team that’s serving the role of “fly in the ointment.” From Dwight’s blog via FanHouse:
I told ya’ll the other day that we find it really disrespectful that everybody seems to be pulling for LeBron and Kobe to get to the Finals. Every time I look at TV, it seems like that’s all anybody is talking about. It’s like nobody is even giving us a shot at winning this series and we’ve used it as motivation.
We’re up 2-to-1 and we have a long way to go vs. the Cavs, but hopefully we can mess up those plans of getting Cleveland and L.A. in the Finals. If the lil’ ol’ Magic make it, what will they say then?
If the Magic do pull out the series it would be especially impressive considering it’s not just the talking heads they’ve had to deal with; the refs and the league office are doing what they can to keep the “lil’ ol’ Magic” from winning. They didn’t suspend Kendrick Perkins for his elbow on Pietrus, and they call ridiculous fouls on Dwight (see all the fouls called on him in Game 1 and the horrendous sixth foul in Game 3). As Dwight’s said before, the Magic are out to prove how good they are and they’re doing a fine job of it. And to think, they could be doing all of this even with the wrong coach!
There’s a reason why people (including himself) are calling him Superman — it’s because he does crazy things on the court. A clear example of Dwight Howard’s strength was when his dunk in the first quarter brought down the shot clock, causing a lengthy delay in the game. Check it out in case you missed it:
It’s weird to see that much damage caused because the dunk didn’t even seem to be the least bit vicious. Meanwhile, Shaquille O’Neal is bitterly wondering what the big fuss is all about.
There’s been a lot said lately about Stan Van Gundy buckling under pressure. Quoting Shaq on his former coach in Miami: “I know for a fact he’s a master of panic and when it gets time for his team to go into the postseason and do certain things, he will let them down because of his panic. I’ve been there before. I’ve played for him.” Combine that with current Magic center Marcin Gortat’s comments to a Polish newspaper: “The nature of our coach, he panics very often during games. He’s got some behavior which is not good for us. With his gestures he makes us nervous on the floor.” And anyone who’s heard Stan Van miked up during a national TV game knows what they say is true — the pitch in the guy’s voice because more squeaky and unnerving, making even the listener panic. Well, to pile on, now it’s Magic center Dwight Howard calling out the coaching following Orlando’s loss to Boston in Game 5 of the playoffs Tuesday night. Upset he only got 10 shots in the game and only two in the fourth quarter, Howard had this to say:
“I don’t think you are going to win a lot of games when your post player only gets 10 shots. It’s tough to get yourself going and get a lot of shots without a lot of touches. We have to do a better job with that. The coaches have to recognize what’s working on the floor. Stick to it. Even if it’s half your starters on the floor. Not just the guys you have put the most trust in. You have to have trust in everybody,” Howard said.
“We moved the ball, we ran, got easy shots, and our coach has to recognize when he was a certain group out there and they are getting the job done and we have to leave those guys on the floor. We are going to make mistakes, but I think you have to go with what works.
I bet half of this is out of anger that the team blew another big second half lead especially after they blew Game 4 at home. The other half I’m guessing stems from Dwight questioning actual tactical moves. If they go on to lose this series, which judging by these comments seems like a certainty, I would expect to see a new coach in Orlando next season.
I’m sure Dwight Howard, not to mention Stan Van Fidgety, will be pretty ticked to read this quote. The Magic beat the Sixers to close out their first round series 4-2 on Thursday night. Orlando made a habit of building up huge leads in the series only to blow games in the 4th quarter. This time they didn’t, winning 114-89. They also happened to be playing without Dwight Howard and Courtney Lee — two members of their starting five and an MVP candidate in Dwight. Because of the easy, blowout win, some people are wondering if the team is better without Howard:
“They’re actually better without Dwight Howard,” Sixers guard Andre Miller said. “One of their players told me that they were better without Dwight Howard. They said the ball moves quicker. They’re not standing around a lot.”
OK, maybe that happened to be the case for Thursday night’s game, but there’s no way that Orlando’s better off without Howard. Maybe the Magic won big on Thursday night because they’re a three-point shooting team and happened to have their best three point night of the series shooting 12-26 (46%). The team won Game 5 despite shooting a less impressive 35% from long range, thanks to Dwight Howard’s 24 boards, 10 on the offensive ends. Game 4 was a three point win and Orlando only shot 30% from the threes. They shot 26% in Game 2 and 40% in Game 3, a win and a loss, respectively. In their Game 1 loss, they shot just 28% on threes. Have I made my point well enough?
For one game they played well without Howard. In the long run, there’s no way they’re a near 60 win team, there’s no way they compete with Boston and Cleveland, and there’s no way they’re better off without Dwight. I think people are getting carried away by one good performance. Matter of fact, I know that is the case. By the way, I’m guessing it was Gortat who made the comment. Doesn’t he get to start if Dwight isn’t playing???