It is even more rare to hear Rich DeVos speak.
Both happened last night in Orlando, where the Dwight Howard trade situation again took center stage in what has been a circus of a season for the Magic.
In a nutshell, DeVos doesn’t want to trade Howard, and the Orlando owner revealed that he has told Howard the grass is not always greener on the other side — although he did not rule out a deal if circumstances warrant it.
So what did Howard do? After ignoring the gaggle of reporters doing a rare pre-game Q & A with the octogenarian owner, Howard went out and dropped his sixth 20-20 game of the season on the Heat as his teammates were dropping 17 bombs on Miami from 3-point range.
The result was a 102-89 victory by Orlando that represented Miami’s first loss to a team other than Milwaukee since Friday the 13th of January, back when they completed an 0-3 Western road trip — a span of 13 games in which Miami had won 11 times.
Howard had 25 points and 24 rebounds (17 on the offensive end), and Ryan Anderson scored 27 with five of Orlando’s flurry of 3-pointers.
From Tim Povtak of FoxSportsFlorida: “Games like this can cement people,” DeVos said quietly after the game, in hallway outside the locker room, in the arena named after the company he built. “Dwight is in a good place now. When you’re young, sometimes you don’t always realize it.” Howard, playing more inspired than ever, lifted the Magic with 25 points, 24 rebounds and on-the-mark free-throw shooting. He dominated the Heat, who had won nine of their previous 10 games and were looking everything like the championship team they are predicted to be. Until they came to Orlando. (LeBron) James struggled in the second half and missed all eight of his shots. He finished with 17 points. Dwyane Wade had a game-high 33 points, but he never threatened the Magic. While most everyone is predicting Howard’s imminent departure, urging the Magic to trade him for something — anything — before he can leave as a free agent this summer, DeVos still is hoping and still believes he can convince him to stay. DeVos has reason for being an optimist. He has lived almost 15 years after his heart transplant in 1997. He wants to win as much as Howard does. He promised him recently that he is keeping the team in the family for exactly that reason, and he’ll spend whatever it takes to build a winner around Howard. “We talk about that. We want to win, too. Everyone wants to win a championship. I want a ring for our players,” DeVos said. “But you can’t change anything until he says he’s going to stay. Then you can do a lot of things.” DeVos put the percentages of Howard staying at “50-50.” Howard, meanwhile, smiled at the mention of his owner after the game. DeVos doesn’t come very often. His home is in Michigan, and he doesn’t travel very well anymore. This was the fourth game he has seen in person this season. “We talk every time he comes,” Howard said.
Once again we went looking for Brian Windhorst‘s take on the Heat’s first non cheese-related hiccup, and once again we were disappointed to see he did not attend the game. What a shame. ESPN hired the guy because he had covered nearly every single one of James’ games since high school, and now they’ve shelved him.
Maybe Skip Bayless should yell about that today. Or about selling your soul to the Evil Empire.
OK, rant over.
Now lets’s have a look around the NBA for a rundown of what else went down last night:
- Linsanity, Part III. The most popular player in New York outside of Eli Manning and Derek Jeter had 23 points — two on his first NBA dunk – and a career-high 10 assists in the Knicks’ 107-93 win over the Washington Wizards. “Just one of those in-a-moment things,” Lin said of the dunk, on which he drove through three defenders. For more on Lin, check out the Q & A he did via e-mail with Beijing-based SheridanHoops columnist Guan Weijia.
- The much-anticipated matchup of Chris Paul vs. Kyrie Irving did not happen after Irving was scratched because of a concussion. Ramon Sessions had a season-high 24 points with 13 assists and Antawn Jamison scored 27 to lead the Cavaliers to a 99-92 win over the Clippers. Daniel Gibson scored 17 and made a big 3-pointer down the stretch after missing five games with a neck infection. Anderson Varejao added 15 rebounds while battling Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan under the boards to prevent the Clips from extending their road winning streak to five.
- Remember when the Trail Blazers were next to impossible to beat at home? No more. Portland lost its second in a row at the Rose Garden as Chase Budinger scored a season-high 22 points for the Rockets in a 103-96 victory. Courtney Lee added 16 as the Houston reserves accounted for 66 points. Houston has won two in a row on its six-game road trip. The Rockets also signed 6-foot-10 center/forward Greg Smith, who was averaging 16.8 points and 8.3 rebounds with the D-League’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
- Dirk Nowitzki scored 25 points, Vince Carter added 17 and Shawn Marion and Rodrigue Beaubois had 13 apiece for the Mavericks, who beat Denver for the first time in their last five meetings, 105-95. Both teams (along with the Rockets) are now 15-11, and it looking more and more like there will be one or two above-.500 teams that will miss the Western Conference playoffs.
- NBA commissioner David Stern was in the house as Josh Smith had 28 points and 12 rebounds in the Hawks’ 97-87 victory over Indiana that snapped Atlanta’s three-game home losing streak. The Hawks, who had fallen behind by big margins in each game on the homestand, built a 21-point lead in the first half and moved within a half-game of the Pacers in the Eastern Conference standings.
- Tony Parker scored 37 points as San Antonio silenced the buzz in Philly with a 100-90 victory over the Sixers. Philadelphia is now 4-2 during a seven-game stretch that coach Doug Collins termed “Death Row” because of the quality of their opponents. The Sixers shot just 11 free throws, making seven. The Spurs were 21-of-26 from the line.
- Quincy Pondexter (nerdiest NBA name ever?) scored a career-best 17 points as the Memphis Grizzlies snapped a three-game losing streak with an 85-80 victory over Minnesota as Kevin Love sat out the second game of his two-game suspension. If you missed it yesterday, I made the case that Love should be given serious consideration in the MVP debate.
- Derrick Rose played 22 minutes and finished with six points, six assists and five rebounds after sitting out the previous game because of back spasms. Chicago, which now leads the league in point differential (+9.7), won its fourth in a row.
- Carlos Delfino made six of eight 3-pointers and scored a season-high 25 points against his former team as Milwaukee won on the road for only the fourth time all season, 105-99 in Toronto. Jose Calderon had 15 assists for the Raptors, improving his average to 8.5 — fifth-best in the NBA. Of the top five leaders in dropping dimes, three are not American citizens.
- Greg Monroe had 20 points and 12 rebounds and the Pistons won their season-high third straight game with a 99-92 victory over the New Jersey Nets. Tweet your condolences to Gary Bloom, a faithful follower who is treating me to one of his Nets season tickets later this season.