And with Anthony making many clutch shots, it’s working out just fine for the Knicks. They are 11-3 under interim coach Mike Woodson.
The superstar’s supremacy may be accelerating, but it’s far from new. One of the NBA’s most celebrated superstar vs. coach battles occurred more than 30 years ago. Just two seasons after leading the Lakers to the 1979-80 NBA title, Magic Johnson, who would become one of the sport’s transcendent superstars, requested to be traded. Johnson, who thrived improvising in a fast-break attack, was fed up with Coach Paul Westhead’s methodical half-court offense. One of them had to go.
Jerry Buss, the Lakers’ owner, chose wisely: Westhead became unemployed. Johnson led the team to four more championships. The Hall of Famer’s efforts helped the Lakers become the NBA’s most valuable franchise.
In Orlando, owner Richard DeVos and Magic management have been roundly ripped in the media for catering to Howard (the former team president abruptly resigned/was forced out in December after allegedly drunk-dialing Howard and pleading with him to stay). The perception is that they’ve permitted Howard to hold them hostage in the hope he’ll ultimately choose to stay with the only team for which he has played during his eight-year career.
It’s true. Howard might as well carry a mask and ransom note in his game shorts. He’s definitely sticking it to the Magic.
They may seem clueless, but DeVos and his top officials are doing what they have to do: playing by Howard’s rules. They could wind up getting burned if he still walks after they grant all his wishes, but at least they’re in the game.
DeVos is still smarting from the body blow he absorbed after Shaquille O’Neal left the Magic in 1996. O’Neal went on to lead the Lakers to three NBA titles and won another with the Heat.
The Magic has already lost a once-in-a-generation player. DeVos would rather not see another future Hall of Famer walk on his watch.
Even though most owners won’t admit it, they’d probably do exactly what DeVos is doing. In a star-driven league, having stars on your team is a must. Owners can always find another coach.
For Jason Reid’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/reid.