Anybody who knows anything about the NBA knows darn good and well that you’re not a true superstar in the league until you (a) win a championship and (b) get at least one coach fired.
Magic Johnson took out Paul Westhead. Michael Jordan had Doug Collins whacked. Heck, even Carmelo Anthony, hoping to prove he was a prime-time player and not just a guy who is supremely overpaid, helped take out Mike D’Antoni in New York last month.
Good luck on the championship thing in the Big Apple, Melo. Have you met James Dolan?
So it only stands to reason that Dwight Howard — the Orlando Magic man-child who calls himself Superman and has long seen himself as underexposed, underappreciated and otherwise under-hyped for his true role in the Universe — would want to get in on the fun and claim what’s left of coach Stan Van Gundy’s scalp.
Dwight has apparently consented to stay only if his disheveled, big-mouth head coach is given the boot. On the heels of the PR nightmare at the trade deadline — Howard demanded to go to a big market, then recanted and stayed because people were mad at him — and awful, Howard-approved moves that brought Glen Davis, Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu to Disney World.
Ah, but not so fast. Stan caught wind of Howard’s grand plan and spilled it to the media Thursday, just seconds before his PR-driven and unaware superstar walked over and put his arm around “his coach” in a poorly thought-out show of solidarity. That led to a meeting between the two with GM Otis Thorpe, an embarrassing loss at home to the Knicks and a guarantee that basketball will take a backseat to the Howard-Van Gundy saga for the rest of the year.
It wasn’t the smartest move by Van Gundy and certainly not in the best interests of his team. But I do get it. Hit Howard where it hurts him the most: his persona. If you’re going to be shown the door, you might as well let us learn who’s holding it open.
After expert analysis, tireless number crunching and 15 minutes with my dartboard in the back yard, I have the Diamondbacks winning 94 games and edging out the Giants for the National League West title, with San Francisco also qualifying under the new expanded playoff format.
I like the Reds to unseat the Brewers in the NL Central and the Phillies and Marlins to come out of the East, with manager Ozzie Guillen four-lettering his Fish to a surprise division title in its cool new ballpark.
I like the Rangers to hold off the Angels and Albert Pujols in the West, but the Angels sneak in as a wild card. I like the Devil Rays in the East with the Yankees getting in, and the Tigers waltzing in a very weak Central Division.
I’ll take the Marlins over the D-Backs in the NLCS and the Rays over the Tigers in the ALCS, leaving us with an all-Florida World Series that will bore the tar out of the rest of the nation. If anyone cares, I’ll take Tampa to its first championship in six games.
The final chapter
Word is the next 72 hours could prove key to the Coyotes future in Arizona. As they head to the playoffs for a third straight year — something that should earn Don Maloney and Dave Tippett a front-of-the-line pass to the Hall of Fame — it’s incredibly deflating to realize that everything else surrounding this franchise has let it down.
Mike Smith’s three-game home shutouts in the heat of a playoff race — capped by a 54-save shutout of Columbus — was one of the most amazing individual accomplishments in Arizona sports history. It was right up there with Randy Johnson’s perfect game, Jake Plummer’s effort against UCLA during the Rose Bowl march and Charles Barkley’s epic 44-point, 24-rebound night in putting away Seattle in the 1993 Western Conference finals.
Still, the city of Glendale continues to point fingers, the NHL keeps the city and the fan base in the dark and fans use the long drive or the inability to properly lubricate with beer to justify not backing a winner in a town in desperate need of one. The only positive: the team on the ice continues to perform.
There is still time to return the favor. Having covered postseason games in every major sport, I confidently share that nothing matches the energy and ambience of a Stanley Cup Playoff game. The NBA playoffs are a month away. The baseball marathon has just begun.
The White Out has run its course and should be sacked or at least tweaked, but the drama and ambience can’t be beat.
Treat yourself to some goose bumps.
Jerry Brown is a contributing columnist who appears every Sunday in the Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.