Dwight Howard, Gilbert Arenas discuss the end with Stan Van Gundy, Orlando Magic

Orlando Magic's Gilbert Arenas (1) and Dwight Howard walk off the court following a timeout during action against the Atlanta Hawks in Game 5 of the NBA Eastern Conference playoff quarterfinals at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday, April 26, 2011. (Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images)
Orlando Magic's Gilbert Arenas (1) and Dwight Howard walk off the court following a timeout during action against the Atlanta Hawks in Game 5 of the NBA Eastern Conference playoff quarterfinals at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday, April 26, 2011. (Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images) /

In 2011, the Orlando Magic were a title contender with a MVP candidate. How did things go wrong? Dwight Howard and Gilbert Arenas share their theories.

Gilbert Arenas does not have a filter.

If there is one thing anyone knows from watching him play, being around him, following him on social media or anything else, it is that Gilbert Arenas will tell it as it is as bluntly as possible. No one would ever accuse Arenas of hiding his feelings or not speaking his mind.

That endears him to a lot of his teammates at times as he is a fun guy to be around. But that can get him into trouble.

He arrived in Orlando after fighting off injuries — and a suspension for bringing guns into the locker room — with the Washington Wizards. For him, the move felt like it was manna from heaven. The 2011 Orlando Magic were probably the best and most talented team he had ever been on. He was eager to get going and get himself healthy to help the team.

There was one problem. He and coach Stan Van Gundy did not really see eye to eye.

As Arenas tells it if he had not gotten waived with the amnesty clause that summer, Van Gundy probably would not have included him in the rotation the following year.

This might get easily dismissed as the frustrations of a player not living up to his expectation. Except he said this on his podcast with Dwight Howard next to him agreeing with at least some of his theories and gut feelings and explaining many of the problems with the Magic in those days.

Between the two players, it provides an interesting window into one of the strangest chapters in Magic history and leaves at least some clues as to why the team ultimately fell apart.

Dwight Howard and Gilbert Arenas discussed this and a whole host of other issues — including life as a teenager in the NBA (warning: it strays into NSFW/PG-13 territory there), the status of big men in the league and playing with the weight of expectation. It is Gilbert Arenas, so there is some cursing so definitely do not listen at work, viewer and listener discretion is advised:

For Magic fans, the most interesting part is when Howard and Arenas discuss what went wrong in the 2011 season and the beginning of the end heading toward the Dwight-mare season in 2012.

The Magic acquired Arenas in a trade with the Wizards in December 2010 as the team struggled with cohesion, injuries and illness. They were still one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, but something was definitely off.

Arenas said he was eager to get to Orlando once he got wind of the trade — even flying down early in anticipation of the deal and already getting up shots at the Amway Center the night the trade became official.

When Arenas first got there, he said the team was able to play free and loose. There were no expectations or even much time to implement much. So everyone played on instincts.

It was clear the team hit it off quickly. After losing their first game together, the Magic tied a franchise record by winning nine straight games.

Then things fell apart. The Orlando Magic finished with the fourth seed in the East and lost to the Atlanta Hawks in the first round in six games.

Arenas averaged 8.0 points per game on a 40.6 percent effective field goal percentage in his 49 games with the Magic. Arenas never got into a rhythm and only fleetingly resembled the All-Star player he was. This season would, in fact, be Arenas’ last full season in the league.

On the podcast, Arenas suggests it was Van Gundy’s coaching and approach that caused the team to fall apart — and for Arenas to struggle on the court.

He claims Van Gundy was too controlling over the offense and too exacting with the team’s preparation, not trusting veteran players to do their work and make good decisions.

That might work with a young team — like say, the current version of the Magic who got a similarly exacting and exhaustive approach from Steve Clifford, an assistant with Stan Van Gundy at the time.

Arenas lauded Van Gundy’s tactical acumen but said he was not good with people, not even giving Howard the chance to lead because of this control over everything.

He said in his experience to that point, the locker room mostly policed itself and held everyone accountable. Van Gundy’s ways did not allow that as Van Gundy too more control over that policing.

This is not the first time Arenas has suggested this theory. But Howard was also in the room and added his two cents, seemingly confirming some of those frustrations with Van Gundy’s approach:

"“It’s kind of like the good cop bad cop,” Howard said responding to Arenas’ claims. “Stan was really the bad cop. So for me, it was like I couldn’t be stern because we already got somebody like that. I have to come in and lift the mood up. I can’t be this mean guy like my coach. I guess they took it as not leadership.”"

No doubt, Van Gundy was a demanding coach. You just had to watch him on the sideline to get that sense. He was very short and quick with young players and not too fond of players breaking out of what they were supposed to do.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

Certainly, by the end of that season, it was clear Van Gundy had run much of his course with that team and that group. As the stories go, Howard had a conversation with Magic management about Van Gundy’s future in the offseason, reportedly requesting the team fire Van Gundy.

The team’s decision not to was a big turning point in what would become the Dwight-mare the following year as the Magic struggled to regain their footing near the top of the Eastern Conference. Magic fans know the rest of that story.

But this does feel like half the story too.

The Magic’s trades on that December day put them in a massive salary cap hole and netted them a worse return. Arenas was not the player he used to be and there were still little wing help to create off the dribble. Hedo Turkoglu was a shell of his 2009 self.

Orlando still won 52 games, but it was clear the team’s championship window closed despite having the MVP runner-up in Howard. And it was not like Arenas tore it up, even with the restrictions he felt Van Gundy put on him.

Not to mention, the team still lacked a bit of maturity. Howard and Arenas would spend the lockout the following offseason in a planking war. That was a thing.

There were a lot of problems with that Magic team and the team was slowly drifting toward irrelevancy. Van Gundy’s approach was probably one of them at the end. The ship was sinking and Van Gundy could not revive the thing.

Next. Top 10 games of the 2019 Orlando Magic season. dark

The conversation between the two former teammates is a pretty good one. They touch on a lot of issues that have affected Howard’s career including the pressures of outside expectations, making money for the first time and how the center position has changed in the league.