When the 76ers host the Orlando Magic tonight, it will not only be a case of two teams desperate for a win, but both trying to overcome off-court drama.
A day after Sixers coach Doug Collins gave no credence to a blog post that suggested he had lost his team, the dysfunctional Magic strolled into town after one of the most absurd situations in NBA history.
That occurred on Thursday when Magic coach Stan Van Gundy disclosed that all-star center Dwight Howard wanted him fired.
The bottom line is that the Sixers and Magic have to put any drama behind them as they fight for playoff position.
(In the Sixers case, they actually may be fighting for a playoff position).
Yet the Sixers, who have lost two in a row and three of four, began the day as the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference, just 2.5 games ahead of No. 9 Milwaukee.
Then again the Sixers are also just a game behind Boston for the No. 4 seed that would go to the Atlantic Division champion. The Sixers visit Boston on Sunday, so things could turn around in a hurry.
Orlando has lost five in a row and sharp-shooting forward Ryan Anderson (ankle) and Hedo Turkoglu (facial fractures) won’t play. In fact Turkoglu is expected to miss the next three weeks.
Still, all anybody wants to talk to the Magic about is the differences between coach and star, who met along with Magic general manager Otis Smith after the comments were made public Thursday.
“There is no need to talk about it,” Howard said after today’s shootaround at the Wells Fargo Center. “You guys are making a big deal out of hit and making a scene. He said what he said and it’s over with.”
When asked how the team can stay focused with such a major distraction hovering around the squad, Howard was to the point.
“That is our job, to get better,” he said. “It’s a tough stretch and we’re going to get better.”
And then he said the team will put this behind them.
“We’re not going to allow the situation to keep us down,” he said. “We have to come together on the court.”
So do the Sixers, who are coming off Wednesday’s 99-78 loss to the visiting Toronto Raptors.
Howard has been battling back spasms and totaled just eight points and eight rebounds in nearly 40 minutes during Wednesday’s 96-80 loss to the visiting New York Knicks.
“I expect Dwight Howard to come out and really try to throw up a huge game tonight,” Collins said. “…I expect him to have a night where that ball is in his hands especially without Turkoglu out there I think they will probably try to go through him to make plays in the post.”
This game will air on ESPN and all eyes will be on Howard, but they also will be on the Sixers. No doubt the problems of both teams, whether perceived or real, will be discussed.
Yet the only thing that matters is a win. This is certainly one NBA regular season game crucial to both teams, each trying to desperately turn things around as the postseason nears.