Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard says that he had nothing to do with Stan Van Gundy getting fired by the organization.
Howard, who has long been suspected of disliking Van Gundy, told TMZ that while the pair had their ups and downs, he had nothing to do with the Magic's decision to fire Van Gundy on May 21.
Me and Stan ... we had our ups and downs ... but for the most part we had one goal ... to win a championship in Orlando, but we fell short.
I'm glad [Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins] confirmed I had nothing to do with it.
Those comments are a direct contradiction from what both Van Gundy and his brother, Jeff Van Gundy, have said in the past. In April, Stan Van Gundy told reporters that he heard from executives within the organization that Howard wanted him to be fired.
I was told by people in our management. Right from the top, Stan Van Gundy said on April 5th about how he knew Howard wanted him out.
Jeff Van Gundy, who works as an analyst for ABC Sports, told ESPN's Stephen A. Smith on Friday that it was dishonest to deny that Howard played a part in his brother's firing.
To hide behind the fact or try to make everyone believe that Dwight Howard didn't have a part in this is absurd. Just say we fired this guy because we feel this is our best chance to keep Dwight Howard.
To do anything else is playing the game of semantics.
Van Gundy was fired after guiding the Magic to five straight playoff appearances during his time as the team's head coach.
The common belief is that the Magic fired Van Gundy and general manager Otis Smith in an effort to get Howard to sign a long-term deal. That effort, according to one report, may be futile.
Chris Sheridan, a veteran NBA reporter, reported earlier this week that Howard still desperately wanted out of Orlando, even after the team fired its coach and general manager. Howard would like to be traded to the Brooklyn Nets before the start of next season in order to pair up with point guard Deron Williams, but would also be interested in the Dallas Mavericks, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Clippers, and Los Angeles Lakers.
A trade of Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers for Andrew Bynum is one deal that has been bandied about in the media.
Sheridan also reported on Thursday that the Magic have finally come to that same realization and are prepared to trade him sooner rather than later.