Few have been willing to step up to defend Dwight Howard as of late, but the Lakers center on Thursday received the surprising support of the man he seemingly helped fire: former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy.
Howard told ESPN Los Angeles Friday that Van Gundy reached out to him the previous day after Howard's controversial statement about his former Magic teammates earned him some unkind responses. Howard told Los Angeles' local CBS station Wednesday that his team in Orlando was "a team full of people that nobody wanted," but later went on to claim that he only meant it as they all were "underdogs."
And it looks as if that retraction was enough to convince Van Gundy because he felt the need to say this to the L.A. Daily News:
"He did not, in my opinion, mean to say 'I didn't play with good players in Orlando,' " Van Gundy, currently an analyst for NBC Sports, told the L.A. Daily News. "The question was about his demeanor. He's been criticized for his demeanor on the court. He was basically trying to defend himself in his demeanor saying he can be smiling and still be serious about winning. What he meant to say is, 'We had an underrated or under the radar team in Orlando and we won a lot of games and I was the best player on that team and this was my demeanor. So what's the problem now?' "
Howard's ex-coworkers on the other hand weren't nearly as understanding.
Current Buck J.J. Redick told ESPN Los Angeles that the he wasn't surprised by Howards' initial comments, adding "I would be more surprised when Dwight starts taking responsibility." As for the others, Jameer Nelson stated that he simply was "disappointed" in Howard's words while Rashard Lewis flat-out called them "disrespectful."
Given Howard's and Van Gundy's shared history -- the player nicknamed "Superman" reportedly tried to get Van Gundy canned on multiple occasions -- it was quite surprising to see Van Gundy come to Howard's defense.
Here's what Howard had to say about their apparently rosy relationship:
"Everything that was out was rumors and stuff being said by other people but both of us understand that's the business side of things. People are always going to twist it and turn it when they look at TV and unfortunately me and Stan can't come out and defend ourselves every two minutes. But we have a great relationship. What a lot of people need to understand is that everything that you see on TV or read is not always true. Me and him have a good relationship. Me and Stan are cool."
The Lakers travel to Orlando for the first time since August's blockbuster trade.