Of Orlando, the Lakers, the Royals (the real ones) and great, great TV
The first reaction from the first league person I talked to after word first broke that Stan Van Gundy and Otis Smith were out in Orlando yesterday was pretty succinct:
“You can’t be surprised.”
Oh, no. There was no surprise at all that Stan had been fired and Smith had “parted ways” with the Magic but, as I said in my original note to a couple people:
“Sometimes this league sucks.”
I don’t think there’s any argument to be made about the Magic being a dysfunctional organization this year but that’s pretty much all on Dwight Howard, I’d suggest; the big centre’s willingness to leak his dissatisfaction with his coach and the organization and his team, his waffling on “trade me, don’t trade me, I’ll sign here, I won’t sign here” ruined what might have been a pretty good season and seeing how the Eastern Conference playoffs have turned out, a fully functional Orlando team coached by a guy with an outstanding track record might have looked pretty good right about now, wouldn’t it?
Van Gundy will unquestionably go down as one of, if not the, best coach in franchise history and it’s hard to imagine that Howard, who still leaves me wanting more from him despite his dizzying array of skills, will ever play for a better coach.
And it is the measure of the man that he simply got tired of putting up with the bullpoop late in the season, his decision that fateful shootaround to confirm that he’d been told Howard wanted out probably sealed his fate but I bet if you asked 29 other coaches to be totally honest, they would have applauded what he did because he had to be entirely fed up with the whole mess.
It is to his credit that he did it.
And all Smith did was try to do what every GM worth his cell phone does, try to massage a somewhat flawed roster and make it better, he took his shots at trades and signings when they presented themselves, all the while dealing with a disgruntled star who never seemed to really know what he wanted.
The blood of Van Gundy and Smith is all over Howard’s hands and best of luck to the next guy who sits in the front office because I don’t think the mess is going go away.
I will say that the first thing the new guy has to do is get rid of Howard and truly start over; I think the fans would accept it, I think it would send a good message to the league and give the new GM a measure of respect.
Stan? He’ll coach again as soon as he wants to and he will once again do a tremendous job.
And a small part of me, and a small part of a lot of people I talk to, hope that Dwight Howard is a fun guy who gets all kinds of marketing opportunities, becomes a global “brand” and never sniffs a championship again.
Chuck and Cammy are in town and they didn’t stop by for dinner or ask me to join them for the fireworks?
See if I take them out when I’m in London later on this summer!
Oh yeah, today is a big day. No question about it.
Kids, listen up: No matter what you watch on TV, they don’t make ‘em like they used to and one of the all-time greats called it a career 20 years ago today.
Never be another one like Johnny Carson, will there?
And there may never be another moment like this one:
Things you thought you’d never see, Vol. 1,302,192
You know those car flags you see people trot out every now and then, the ones that stick out the side window to show some over-the-top support for some sports team? Well, travelling around Niagara Falls while on taking care of some family issues yesterday, here comes a car with a flag of the New Jersey Devils hanging out the window.
Never saw that before and, I checked, the team is indeed still playing.
So what now with the Los Angeles Lakers, who bowed rather meekly and unceremoniously out of the Western Conference playoffs last night.
(And I am a big Kobe fan but 42 points and 0 assists is not the way one of the best players ever should go out, is it?)
Anyway, there would seem to be serious flaws with that roster and change is certainly afoot.
The great Butch Carter used to say that if you wanted to make significant change to a non-playoff team in any summer you looked at some under-achieving playoff team that was ready to divest itself of good players and you can imagine a lot of teams will be looking to Los Angeles in the next few months.
But for what?
They’d have to fold the franchise if they traded Kobe so that’s not going to happen, rightly or wrongly, and other than that you have the relatively flawed Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol and that’s about it.
I like Bynum a lot, would probably like him a lot more if tried harder more often; and Gasol is a gem who lacks some level of consistency.
The package you’d have to put together for either of them would have to include all-stars, good young players and more and I’m not sure anyone guts their team for either of those guys.
The rest of the Lakers?
Paucity of talent – Jordan Hill seems energetic but that’s really about it right now – and the other guys are hardly worth it, in my opinion.
It was all nice and good to hear Kobe say the end isn’t here, that the Lakers aren’t going anywhere but they have to: They are, right now, perhaps the third best team in the West, they could be the fifth or sixth best when next fall rolls around and I wonder if Mitch Kupchak has the goods to make the team appreciably better.
How much do you wish San Antonio-Oklahoma City would be opening their Western Final tomorrow or even Thursday or even Friday or even Saturday.
Yeah, me too, but our friends in TV have other things in mind and we have to wait until Sunday night for Game 1.
That’s awful, isn’t it?
But it gives me some time to figure out who might win – and that’s not going to be an easy call to make – and while all too often we end up disappointed by series or games we expect to be epic, I have a sneaking suspicion that this one could live all to all its billings.
Just too bad we have to wait so long for it to get going.
Okay, I’m off to eat cake. Or something like that.
Enjoy the day.