Not to belabor a point, but Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard has had a rough go of it lately, what with all the fouls and the sitting out while his team needs him in the playoffs. Magic GM Otis Smith, a former player, recognizes that, so he sat down with Howard after the Magic's practice today and discussed a few things. Tania Ganguli of the Orlando Sentinel has the goods:
Q: What advice did you give Dwight about avoiding foul trouble?
A: None. He’s not going to avoid foul trouble other than thefirst series is over and let’s move to the next one. You need your best player on the floor more than 28 minutes a game. From that standpoint you have to do whatever it takes.
Q: What were you discussing?
A: Yeah. Life. … It’s the playoffs. When the playoffs start you’re playing basketball, everything tightens up a little more. you’re going to ge theld, pushed, tugged, grabbed on. Sorry. Your team needs you on the floor in order for us to be successful, more than 28 minutes.
There's much more with Smith in Ganguli's story above, including his thoughts on Vince Carter and Marcin Gortat. They're every bit as worthwhile as the Howard portions.
What this news brings me back to is Smith's no-nonsense attitude, which itself is part of the Magic's commitment to winning. He doesn't make excuses for his players--"I don't buy into the concept [of superstar calls] at all," he says--and, when he sees their attitude might need adjusting, he'll proactively address it.
Smith travels with the team on almost every road trip, which is rare for a GM. He maintains a solid line of communication with head coach Stan Van Gundy. He attends almost every practice. He's as in-tune with his team and its needs as any other GM is. And maybe that's why Howard might be more inclined to listen to him than to, say, Van Gundy. Not that Howard's tuned him out, but I'd say that Smith and Van Gundy have different approaches when it comes to dealing with players, and in this case, Smith's was needed.
As an aside, we're really lucky to have Tania around. She, Josh Robbins, Brian Schmitz, John Denton, Tim Povtak, Andrew Melnick, and all the media covering the team do a tremendous job. Seriously, the transcript of Smith's comments is essential reading. Not every other team gets this sort of local coverage and attention.