by Marcel Mutoni

The Orlando Magic played a miserable game last night. Things got so bad that the corpse of one Larry Hughes gave them 40! Not only that, but coach Stan Van Gundy momentarily benched Dwight Howard in the fourth quarter, and publicly criticized his franchise player for a perceived lack of effort and focus.

Cue the fireworks:

“His focus isn’t where it needs to be. I don’t think, right now, we’re on the same page to be quite honest,” Van Gundy fumed. “I think his priorities need to be defense and rebounding. We’re 22-2 when he blocks three shots or more, and he’s got five blocks in the last six games so he’s not focusing on coming to help.

“He had 23 15-plus rebounds in the first 41 games, and he has one in the past 12 games. He didn’t even have a double-figure rebounding game (on Monday). It’s a matter of focus, and his focus is on the offensive end, and he gets discouraged when he doesn’t get the ball. I don’t think, I know, that the numbers prove that what we need him to focus on to win is defense and rebounding. But that’s not what he wants to do right now, so we have a little bit of a conflict.”

Let the record show that Stan Van Gundy does not lack balls. In fact, he could do Sam Cassells’s infamous ‘Yeah, I got big balls‘ celebratory dance on the sideline and I wouldn’t bat an eyelash. After all, it’s not everyday that a head coach throws his best player, and one of the megastars of the League, under the bus like that.

Howard, to his credit, took Van Gundy’s stinging criticism in stride and says he’ll try harder on the boards and defensive end. That’s called maturity, kids.