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Public 'meltdown'

Sports | Dwight Howard complaint should have been a team matter

Issue: "Tiananmen massacre," June 6, 2009

In the wake of the Orlando Magic's 92-88 loss May 12 in Game 5 of a playoff series with the Boston Celtics, center Dwight Howard blamed the defeat on the team's failure to put the ball in its superstar's hands-his superstar hands, that is: "Offensively, I have to get the ball."

Such comments hardly stand out in a league where individual exploits typically dominate highlight reels and translate to massive salaries. Players demanding more touches is a staple of NBA life.

But in this particular case, considering this particular source, the post-game remarks raised more than a few eyebrows. Howard holds a reputation for selflessness, a character trait widely attributed to his Christian faith. He is active in philanthropic work, involved in church youth programs, and known for a team-first attitude on court.

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Of course, much of the press Howard earned for Christian devotion waned after he fathered an illegitimate son with a member of the Magic dance team. Still, the player called "Superman" for his acrobatic dunks maintains regard as a soft-spoken, respectful teammate.

Given that mild persona, one reporter went so far as to call Howard's critical comments a "meltdown." The 6-foot-11 all-star publicly maligned coach Stan Van Gundy's substitution patterns: "Our coach has to recognize that when he has a certain group out there and they are getting the job done, we have to leave those guys on the floor." And his implicit attack on teammates was no less candid: "You've got a dominant player, let him be dominant."

But do such verbal barbs truly constitute a meltdown? More importantly, were Howard's words even inappropriate, unbecoming, or un-Christian? The Magic's best player averaged more than 20 points and 13 rebounds throughout the regular season, but took only 10 shots in the Game 5 loss to the Celtics. Teammates failed to feed him the ball on possession after possession during a fourth quarter in which the Magic squandered a 14-point lead.

Perhaps Howard's mistake was airing his grievances in public. Demanding the ball as the best qualified man to score is no sin and might well be the duty of every superstar, Christian or not.

Trojan pride

By Mark Bergin

The athletic program at the University of Southern California, already embroiled in a recruiting controversy, now faces allegations that basketball coach Tim Floyd paid cash to a man in exchange for encouraging guard O.J. Mayo to join the Trojans. Louis Johnson, a former ­member of Mayo's inner circle, says Floyd personally delivered $1,000 to Rodney Guillory, Mayo's handler, outside a café in Beverly Hills, Calif.

If true, the charge may as much suggest a brazen sense of invincibility as it does a lack of integrity. A highly recognizable coach handing over an envelope of $100 bills in broad daylight smacks more of arrogance and stupidity than the more shrewd, undetectable shenanigans of which USC coaches are often suspected.

Tiger standard

By Mark Bergin

Since returning from injury earlier this year, Tiger Woods has won a first-round match in the Accenture Match Play Championship, tied for ninth at the World Golf Championships-CA Championship, won the Arnold Palmer Invitational, tied for sixth at the Masters, placed fourth at the Quail Hollow Championship, and finished eighth at the Players Championship. Those results give him 17 consecutive top 10 finishes in stroke play events. Yet, the most asked question on the PGA Tour today: "What's wrong with Tiger Woods?"

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