Harsh enough for Orlando C Dwight Howard (above, right) that his request to raise the rim to 12 feet in this Saturday’s All-Star Dunk Contest was rejected by the Association ; the public tongue lashing he received from Magic coach Stan Van Gundy after Monday’s loss to the Cavaliers was followed by further scolding, as quoted by the Sun-Sentinel’s Brian Schmitz.

Orlando Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy said he decided to go public with his criticism of Dwight Howard following Monday™s game after previous “private” talks with the all-star center apparently fell on deaf ears.

“When you™re a great player and a franchise guy, there™s more on you. He™s got to accept it,” Van Gundy said Tuesday after the club™s practice.

“He may not like it. He may not like the way I did it. But I™ve also done it before many times in private — just he and I. I didn™t think it was making an impact, so now it™s out there for everybody. We™ll see what happens.”

Van Gundy said he had been talking to Howard about working just as hard on defense and rebounding as on offense, showing him how his statistics relate to the club™s victories and losses. But after the loss to the Cavs, Van Gundy chastised his star™s priroities, saying he and Howard “weren™t on the same page” and that they had ˜a little bit of a conflict.”

The crux of the Van Gundy-Howard tiff is this: Like all young stars, Howard loves to score, but the Magic have enough scoring.

They badly need him to dominate on defense, too, because the other starters are so offensive-minded or defensively challenged. They want him to perform the rather unglamorous duties of blocking shots and gathering rebounds.

“Dwight isn™t the reason we™re not guarding people and all of that,” Van Gundy said. “He™s the main guy, our best player. He™s the guy I sort of went after. Some of things are just more quantifiable with him than they are with other guys.”

The Magic are 22-3 when Howard blocks three or more shots per game and 24-14 when he has 10 or more rebounds per game.

Against teams at least .500, the Magic are 10-2 when Howard blocks three or more shots a night — but 1-12 when he swats three or fewer. In other words, teams are not getting much in the paint and likely aren™t shooting a high percentage when he™s active defensively.

In Howard™s last six games, he has just five blocks and Orlando was 3-3. In the six games prior to that, he had 21 blocks and the Magic were 5-1.

Cracked Van Gundy, “I told Dwight there™s no reason he shouldn™t block more shots. His teammates are certainly doing their part. The ball gets by them all the time.”