Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Bleachers' Brew #305 Hey, Dwight Howard. Be careful for what you wish for.

This appears in the Monday, April 9, 2012 edition of the Business Mirror.

Hey, Dwight Howard. Be careful for what you wish for.
by rick olivares

Wherever this season for the Orlando Magic goes, Stan Van Gundy made sure he salvaged a measure of personal pride when he went public with the news that Dwight Howard asked management to fire him. Were you surprised that the Magic were blown out that same evening by the New York Knicks?

Many have said that professional sports has turned into a player’s league. Free agency assured that. The players may get the coaches fired but at the end of the day, the players are perceived to be the petulant ones. And sometimes, life has a funny way of sneaking up on you.

For sure coach-player relationships have been contentious for as long as there have been sports. As Van Gundy succinctly put it, it doesn’t have to be sports. One can feel dislike for a boss at work but still put in great work.

During Michael Jordan’s younger years, if he didn’t help run off coaches he would to his teammates. Does anyone remember Brad Sellers? It’s one thing to destroy foes during a game but your own teammate?

Jordan’s megalomania was eventually checked during Game Five of the 1991 NBA Finals when the Lakers came charging back while His Airness opted to hog all the shots. Phil Jackson called time and in one of the most memorable sports scenes ever, he asked Jordan several times who was open. Jordan finally admitted, “Paxson.”

“Then get him the fucking ball,” growled Jackson. Paxson went to hit five successive jumpers that killed Los Angeles and Chicago closed out the series in five for the first of their six titles of the 1990s. Jordan would later swear by Jackson.

In his Third Coming, this time with Washington, then Wizards coach Doug Collins acquiesced to everything that Jordan wanted that he lost the entire team save for His Airness. When the season was done, team owner Abe Pollin fired both Collins and Jordan. None of Jordan’s teammates saw him off.

Magic Johnson began his career by helping run out Paul Westhead out of LA. In his final act as a member of the team, Johnson was head coach but he gave up when he couldn’t control the likes of Nick Van Exel.

Both Jordan and Johnson are some of the league’s greatest players but don’t think for a moment that their reps are as vanilla as they would like. Jordan has yet to prove anything post-player. Johnson? Well, he was one of the worst coaches in Lakers history.

After Jackson left the Lakers in 2004, after management clearly decided they would opt to go with Kobe Bryant’s whims, he came out with a book on the 2004 season titled, ‘The Last Season’. In that book, Jackson told in rich detail the problems in dealing with the young superstar that caused the team to unravel. Rudy Tomjanovich took over the season after but he didn’t finish it citing health reasons. No doubt the pressures of coming in post-Jackson had a huge effect on Tomjanovich’s health. Jackson’s longtime assistant Frank Hamblen finished the year before Big Chief Triangle returned.

Not every NBA coach has Jackson’s cache. Who else? Pat Riley? Larry Brown and George Karl to an extent. But for the rest, it’s touch and go. Vinny del Negro sympathizes with Van Gundy’s predicament. “When things are going well every one is patting you on the back. When things are going bad, that’s when you see how much support you really have,” he told the Los Angeles Times’ Broderick Turner.

When Mike D’Antoni couldn’t get much out of Carmelo Anthony, he turned the keys to New York’s game to the most unlikely of people – journeyman Jeremy Lin. And what followed was the hardcourt’s version of Tebow-mania. When Anthony returned, the Knicks sputtered. Coincidentally, Stoudemire and Lin also got hurt not soon after. D’Antoni resigned having enough of this craziness. When assistant Mike Woodson took over as interim coach he wisely decided to hand over the keys to Anthony. As much as the Knicks are winning again, they are also feasting on bad competition. Let’s see where they go come playoff time.

Anthony was the franchise savior in Denver where he was first drafted. But eventually the team gave up on him. That game against Oklahoma where he bizarrely remained on the floor after bumping Kevin Durant could have been his Ron Artest moment. While Anthony has become a poster child for the current NBA problems, luckily, he still has time to rewrite history. A championship or two will help erase that coach-killer tag that comes along with his $18 million price tag.

And then there’s this bit of news.

Isiah Thomas was just fired by Florida International University after three years on the job as head coach (his team posted a cumulative 26-65 record). Thomas was one of those mini-general managers during his time with the Detroit Pistons. As a player, Thomas is one of the NBA’s All-time 50 greatest. But he had a hand in the trade of Adrian Dantley for his childhood buddy and stooge Mark Aguirre. He was one of those who instigated the freeze out of Michael Jordan during His Airness’ first All-Star Game. Karma eventually set when it was said that his non-inclusion in the 1992 US Men’s Olympic Team to the Barcelona Olympics was due to Jordan’s influence.

You see, Dwight Howard, in case it isn’t obvious yet, what goes around comes around.

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