Denton: Did Stern Squash Stan's Attempt to be on ESPN?

By John Denton
October 10, 2012

ORLANDO -- For every action, there’s a reaction. Let’s take a look around the NBA at some of the headlines and newsmakers and offer up some reactions:

ACTION: Former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy reportedly won’t work for ABC’s pregame/postgame studio show after recently interviewing with the network.

REACTION: This is really bad news for basketball fans for a variety of reasons.

First, ABC’s pregame show is a mish-mash of miscast parts. Chris Broussard is a fine reporter, but he should be offering up breaking news and tidbits around the league instead of Xs and Os breakdowns. Secondly, Jon Barry doesn’t move the meter at all with much emotion or in-depth analysis. I’ve said it for years and I’ll say it again: TNT dominates ABC when it comes to hiring on-air NBA talent. TNT lands Reggie Miller, Steve Kerr and Doug Collins (previously), while ESPN ends up with Jalen Rose, Tim Legler, Chris Mullin and Bruce Bowen. That’s the equivalent of Usain Bolt versus Van Gundy in a footrace.

Secondly, Van Gundy would have been tremendous as an analyst – even better than brother, Jeff, an employee of ABC/ESPN. As good as Stan was as a head coach for the Magic – the most successful in franchise history – he would have been even better as an analyst. He’s smart, opinionated and capable of looking at issues on the grand scale. The only knock on Van Gundy is that he would have never, ever been critical of a coach in any way whatsoever. He’s a coach, his brother was a coach and his dad was a coach. Ripping coaches would have been totally off limits to Van Gundy.

Some have wondered if NBA Commissioner David Stern squashed the idea of the outspoken Van Gundy analyzing games and the league on such a high-profile platform. After all, it was Van Gundy who repeatedly ripped the league for playing games on Christmas Day. And in March of 2011, Van Gundy was critical of Stern’s firm hand, saying, ``I certainly can’t have an opinion because David Stern, like a lot of world leaders we’ve seen in this world lately, don’t really tolerate other people’s opinion or free speech or anything.’’ And avid reader of several political magazines and always knowledgeable about world events, Van Gundy had to know that comparing Stern to some of the world’s most evil dictators wouldn’t go over well with the league office, yet he still went there anyway.

If Stern did truly put the kibosh on ABC’s plan to hire Van Gundy, it’s somewhat understandable considering the way SVG has shredded the league and bad-mouthed the Magic recently after praising the organization while working in Orlando for five years. Not having Van Gundy as an analyst is bad news for basketball fans because his intelligence, humor and candid comments would have been a boon. And it’s a shame Stan will be out of the league this season, but I can totally understand why Stern might flex his executive muscle on this matter for the good of the league.

ACTION: Former Magic all-star guard Tracy McGrady announced that he is abandoning his hopes of catching on with another NBA team and will play this season in China.

REACTION: I might be in the minority here, but I really thought that McGrady still had something left to offer a NBA team because of his size (6-8, 225 pounds), versatility (he can play guard or forward) and highly underrated passing abilities.

Sure, McGrady averaged only 5.3 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists a game last season while he was mostly miserable in a mop-up role in Atlanta, but he did put up nights such as these to show he still has plenty of firepower left in his arsenal: 17 (points)-4 (rebounds)-4 (assists), 14-7-5 and 16-7-4.

But McGrady wanted nothing to do with a return to Atlanta because he felt slighted by having to play a role as a bit player with the Hawks last season. He reportedly worked out this offseason for the Spurs and the Knicks, but San Antonio had no interest and New York instead decided to dust off a retired Rasheed Wallace.

McGrady, who led the NBA in scoring in back-to-back years while in Orlando, informed fans of his decision to play in China in a heartfelt posting on his website earlier this week. While thanking those who cheered and supported him, McGrady’s note also sounded like a goodbye to the NBA. Of special note in Orlando, McGrady thanked Magic owner Rich DeVos and former GM John Gabriel, two men who believed in him enough back in 2000 to award him a $92.88 million contract.

McGrady’s goodbye is sad considering that at one time T-Mac was thought to be as good a scorer as Kobe Bryant, but his potential never matched his success because of injuries and other issues.

``As I enter this next chapter, I am excited to play for Qingdao Eagles in China,’’ McGrady posted. ``I have been to China several times in the last few years and I love the people and the country. It will be an honor to play for them. Thank you to every fan that has followed me and believed in me. Injuries and all, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I am proud of the mark I left on this game and am grateful to have been a part this league. It was a dream to play in front of all of you, each night, in every stadium. Thank you.’’

My guess is that if McGrady goes to China and lights it up with his ability to pile up points in bunches – see his 37 in a half in 2003, his 62 in a game in 2004 or his 13 points in 35 seconds in Houston – he will get another shot in the NBA. Whether or not McGrady is willing to accept a reduced role is yet to be seen.

ACTION: Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams said he told Nets’ GM Billy King this past summer to not wait on Dwight Howard’s decision as he was rebuilding the team.

REACTION: Williams, who graces the cover of Sports Illustrated this week in a story about basketball being back in Brooklyn, has been in quite the reflective mood of late, looking back at the offseason moves by the Dallas Mavericks and his Nets when he was a highly coveted free agent.

Williams, a native of suburban Dallas, felt snubbed when Mavs owner Mark Cuban didn’t attend a free agency meeting with the all-star point guard. Dallas was thought to be a leading candidate to land Williams because of his ties to the area and Cuban’s willingness to surround him with elite talent. But he was miffed when Cuban chose to attend a taping of ``Shark Tank’’ rather than make a pitch about the franchise’s future. Granted, the Nets could offer $24 million more and a lengthier contract, but Cuban’s indifference couldn’t have helped the Mavs’ chances of getting another star to play with an aging Dirk Nowitzki.

On the premier edition of NBA TV’s ``The Association: Brooklyn Nets,’’ King said that Williams told him to not to wait for a decision from Howard before he started remaking the Nets. (Note: ``The Association’’ is a truly captivating and well-done show worth watching for any basketball fan. I never miss it on my DVR, having watched the shows about the Celtics and Nuggets the past two years.)

Howard made no secret last season that he wanted to play for the Nets, but that franchise had to baffled last March when he changed his mind before the trade deadline, waived his opt-out clause and remained with the Magic.

Howard reissued his trade request last June, giving the Nets hope that they could finally land the all-star center and convince Williams to stay. That trade never went down, and Williams still signed with the Nets – but only after it invested $330 million on Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries.

``One thing Deron did say to me, he said, `Please, just don’t wait on Dwight. We can’t wait and not have a team,’’’ King said during the premiere of NBA TV’s ``The Association: Brooklyn Nets,’’ which will air on Oct. 16. ``The team of Brooklyn is bigger than one person. I owed it to the organization, I owed it to our fans, I owed it to Deron and the players that we have to build for Brooklyn, and we went forward and built our team.’’

The Nets will be a much better team this season, but I still don’t see them contending in the Eastern Conference. It will be interesting to see how Williams and Johnson coexist because both players need the ball in their hands to be successful. The change could be especially difficult for Johnson, who became derisively known in Atlanta as ``Iso Joe’’ because of his tendency to hog the basketball. At best, I have the Nets fourth in the East this season.

John Denton writes for John has covered the Magic since 1997. E-mail John at or follow him on Twitter at @JohnDenton555.

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