There's a reason Dwight Howard's fingerprints are all over the Orlando Magic's cowardly and colossally wrongheaded decision this week to fire the two best basketball men in the organization.
Because he did it.
Howard no longer wanted to play for Stan Van Gundy, so he made sure the franchise's overmatched CEO, Alex Martins, got rid of him. Likewise, the 26-year-old, All-Star center wanted to have a greater say in personnel matters -- something Otis Smith refused to concede -- so he made sure the sharp, classy and widely respected GM was placed in such an untenable position that he'd walk away.
And nothing Martins said during his fact-twisting, truth-stretching spin-fest Monday should be taken seriously.
Especially this: "I am saying, in no uncertain terms, that Dwight did not want to be part of this decision. He didn't want to make this decision. He never asked me to make this decision."
So Van Gundy was lying a few weeks back, when he said publicly his best player had gone to upper management to ask that the coach be canned?
A seemingly good man and respected coach with a deserved reputation for honesty, candor and being a good soldier?
We're supposed to believe Martins is telling us the truth now and Van Gundy wasn't then? That Howard was no factor in the decision? That what Van Gundy said about Howard wanting him fired -- and the coach's subsequent dismissal -- was just some wild coincidence?
Martins must think Magic fans are morons.
It's this simple: If Van Gundy had maintained a better relationship with Howard, and if Howard wanted Van Gundy to remain his coach, Van Gundy would still have the job.
That's the way the modern NBA works. The marquee players have been allowed to delude themselves into believing they're bigger than their teams, bigger than the league, bigger than the game. They run the show.
They want to pick their coaches. They want to pick their teammates. It doesn't matter that, in all but a handful of cases, they're not qualified to do either.
In this particular case, it didn't matter that Howard is the NBA's best center by default, that Van Gundy ranks among the game's top coaches, or even that Howard, fresh off back surgery, has spent most of the past couple of years saying he wants out of Orlando and still hasn't signed a new, long-term contract.
Howard got what he wanted.
The Magic are now Howard's team. He'll choose the new GM. He'll choose the new coach. And, ultimately, they'll answer to him.
Team owner Rich DeVos and Martins have bent over and bowed to Howard's demands, rewarding him for his selfish and immature behavior by giving him de facto control of the Magic's basketball operations in a foolishly desperate attempt to keep him in Orlando.
Maybe it'll work.
If you're a Magic fan, however, you should hope it doesn't.
You should be so sickened by what DeVos and Martins allowed Howard to do to Van Gundy and Smith -- a major reason the modern, player-run, me-first NBA no longer appeals to many old-school fans -- that you don't want him to stay.
And he probably won't.
Once Howard knows his back will fully recover, he'll revert to being an insecure prima donna and almost certainly renew his push for a trade to Brooklyn or Los Angeles or Chicago, where, if he goes, he'll surely leave his fingerprints on some other coach's pink slip.
Thing is, the Magic might actually get enough in return to become a better team without him.
Unfortunately, they probably won't get a better coach than the one Howard got fired.