Magic Players, Van Gundy Divided?
Alex Kennedy of HOOPSWORLD writes that the Orlando Magic's current losing streak may have created a "rift" between the players and head coach Stan Van Gundy.
When asked if that's a sign of Stan being disconnected from the team, [Dwight] Howard hesitated before denying the players and coach are divided. But players have confided privately they rarely talk to the head coach. Sure, he yells at practice and addresses the group but there are no conversations and he's not talking to the players on a personal level.
Kennedy also says that Van Gundy's assertion that the team doesn't have a vocal leader upset Howard, who believes he fills that role.
We’re sticking together!
On his blog, Howard writes that the team is struggling, but is working hard to overcome their frustration on offense. He adds:
This is a different team than the team than the one we had last season. We have to get that through our minds and everybody else does too. You can’t expect us to do those same things because it’s a totally different team. But one thing I will say is that we’re together and all of the situations that have happened on the court and in the locker room we’re going to remain together.
Morning Shootaround: Toronto Getting The Best Of Orlando
NBA Playbook diagrams the Magic's myriad problems against Toronto, including poor defensive rotations and Howard's turnovers.
Chat with John Hollinger
John Hollinger of ESPN.com thinks Orlando's struggles this year are partially due to Howard, and offers these observations from last night's game as evidence:
Let me put something out there -- was it me or did Dwight Howard look a half-step slow out there? The turnovers, the inability to dominate [Andrea] Bargnani, a couple slow rotations -- most notably when [Marco] Belinelli drove in from the 3-pt line for a layup and a relative nearby Howard couldn't react in time to get the block. He's still better than 90% of the league, but I don't think he's playing at least year's level.
Grading The NBA Offseason Signings (Part 2)
Gerald Narciso of Dime Magazine isn't thrilled with how the Magic's signing of Brandon Bass has worked out so far.
Why they signed him: Bass had a strong showing in last year’s playoffs as a member of the Mavs. GMs love the fact Bass is a big body and extremely explosive. His energy can really get his teammates and crowd going. Orlando probably envisioned Bass and Howard being one of the most athletic big man combos in the League.
What they’ve gotten: Bass went from playing over 20 mpg in the beginning of the season when Rashard Lewis was suspended to sporadically seeing time. Bass has already racked up 12 DNP-CDs (did not play – coach’s decision). While Bass is probably just a victim of the numbers game, it clearly hasn’t worked out for him so far. Grade – C minus
Bryant, James lead pack in final All-Star ballot update
Howard leads Eastern Conference centers in the latest All-Star balloting returns. He's a lock to start his third consecutive All-Star game, barring injury. Vince Carter still trails Allen Iverson at the guard spot, and it appears unlikely that he will make the team as a starter.