A peak inside the Dwightmare


The 2011-12 season was one distraction after another. The basketball never seemed to matter. Everything led back to one unavoidable question:

Will the Magic trade Dwight Howard?

Brian Schmitz’s e-book Dwightmare captures that sentiment, reviewing the random and absurd occurrences that made up the 2011-12 season and how the insanity consumed the Orlando Magic franchise for an entire season.

The saga is not over, but Schmitz and the Orlando Sentinel put out the e-book to put the recap of the 2011-12 season all in one place — available for $4.39 on Amazon. It is a quick read that limits its focus to the comedy of errors that was the 2011-12 season. Schmitz pulls back some of the curtain behind this crazy season and shed some light.

Likely we will never know exactly what was behind the Bob Vander Weide phone call in December; or the back-room dealings between Alex Martins, Dwight Howard and Dan Fegan; or what went wrong in the relationship between Dwight Howard and Stan Van Gundy, and then by extension, his teammates; or what happened that final plane trip home from San Antonio and the hours afterward when Howard ultimately decided to waive his early termination option.

Schmitz tries though. In some ways, he succeeds. In other ways, he comes up short.

The book lacks depth. It is noticeable how absent the main characters are.

Dwight Howard speaks very little other than those familiar quotes he gave during press conferences indelibly imprinted into the story. You rarely hear much from Stan Van Gundy. Otis Smith pops in a few times, but as the familiar quotes he gave throughout the season. Alex Martins rarely appears there too. Except for a few quotes from unnamed teammates, the majority of the book is based off of recycled quotes.

What it really lacks in depth is a historical context. Schmitz asks the question: when did things start going wrong? Was it after Orlando broke up the 2009 teams? Was it when Howard left agent Aaron Goodwin for Dan Fegan? Was it during the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals or the offseason thereafter? Was it the trades in December 2010?

These questions are left unanswered and examined only on the surface. Schmitz begins to discuss them in his book and divides his chapters in a roughly chronological order, but as he is about to get into what REALLY happened, he pulls the microscope back and returns it to the confines of the last season. For people like me who have read everything Schmitz has written for years now, that disappoints a bit.

If you followed the team all season, you will not learn much new. And that is the unfortunate part about this book. It is not a tell-all book.

It stands as a quick account of the 2011-12 season on its own. Do not expect much more than that.

There are some good nuggets of information in there.

Schmitz cites anonymous team sources saying they just wanted the whole scenario over.  Particularly poignant were Schmitz’s reports that team staff believed the plane ride back from San Antonio was a final hurrah, thus the enthusiasm from the team on the plane with the photos taken that evening. And then his report that an anonymous teammates pulled over on the side of the road in disbelief when Howard officially told the team he would stay for the rest of the year and play out his contract.

Schmitz opens the book with the fateful day in December and what led up to Howard’s trade request. He writes that Howard’s agent, Dan Fegan, has a heated exchange with Magic CEO Alex Martins in December 2011, after which Martins told Fegan he would no long talk with him and that all contact should go through Otis Smith.

The first chapter is full of little facts like this that were not known at the time that try to set the tone for this book. Schmitz writes, in a somewhat speculative tone, that Howard was working at this point to paint Fegan as the bad guy in planning his exit.

This likely leads to the other problem in this book.

Schmitz is often a lightning rod for criticism among Magic fans. A lot of people see him as too cynical in his writing and feel he writes as a columnist too much without the impartiality of a reporter. There definitely is a bit of that in this book. If you like Schmitz’s writing style, you will not find a problem. If you don’t… you will suspect he is “hating” or serving a Magic-bashing agenda from the Sentinel (yes, I hear those things).

That is not the case.

Schmitz is not going to deal with B.S. Thati s is his job as a journalist to see through it all. Certainly Schmitz goes about it in this book with his usual acerbic tone. There was a lot of bull to cut through in this story, and Schmitz calls the bluff the entire way through the book.

It just feels far too early to open these wounds. The saga is not over. Several passages in the book refer to the potential firing of Stan Van Gundy and Otis Smith before a final chapter adds that event in. If anything, it shows the Dwightmare is not over.

The book probably comes a little too soon as no one is ready to talk about what happened with enough depth or clarity.