Dwight Howard rates as unfiltered in a new documentary where the enigmatic All-Star center finally admits he indeed once insisted that the Orlando Magic fire coach Stan Van Gundy and after they balked demanded that they let him go instead.
“We shouldn’t be losing like this,” Howard reflects in Dwight Howard: In the Moment, following the Magic’s first round ouster from the 2011 playoffs. “I wanted to win. And I went to management and I said: ‘Guys, I’m a player. I just want to give my two cents. I think that our coach has lost his touch with the team. Great coach, but I think he’s lost his touch, I think he’s lost his voice. And I think it’s time that you guys get a new voice.’”
Howard’s power play didn’t go over as well as he might have imagined, leaving him bemoaning during the 72-minute film the Magics’ actions “lets me know how you guys feel about your leader expressing how to make the team better.”
Let Howard tell it, he had no idea a team or organization could be quite that dysfunctional. But a few months later, he found himself in Los Angeles, alongside Kobe Bryant, and that’s when stuff really hit the fan. As Howard recalls it, before he arrived in L.A., he and Bryant had several heart to hearts that went nothing like the experiences they shared once he was fully in the land of make believe.
“Before I got to the Lakers, I would talk to him [and] he would really help me out on the low about how to become everything that I said I wanted to be,” Howard said. “I looked up to him and I looked up to everything he, as a basketball player, stood for. I just felt so hurt and disappointed in the fact that the guy that I was expecting to be somebody who was gonna pass the torch, somebody to say, ‘Dwight, I’ll take you under my wing and I’ll show you how to get it done’ … it was none of that.”
Still, not quite the player in Houston that he was during those early Magic days, Howard at least seems just as at peace. In coach Kevin McHale’s rotation and new mentor Hakeem Olajuwon’s good graces, he finally seems convinced that he again has coaches that fully believe him.
“I know people might judge me for some of the mistakes I’ve had, but I’m not perfect,” he said. “You know, looking back on it, maybe I could have done it a different way with Stan. I had to face my mistakes. I had to own up to ’em and not run from ’em.”
No matter what route he takes, Howard has to know he will always remain persona non grata in L.A., and opening up all these old wounds won’t do much to stop the bleeding. But at least he wants Lakers fans to know the truth. His truth anyway.
Let Howard’s handlers—and even his doctors tell it— the depths of the back ailments he suffered from during his one season with the Lakers were so severe they posed “a potentially completely career-ending injury.”
True or not, that will hardly matter in L.A. Among the masses there, Dwight Howard is already done.