Brendan Haywood initially figured Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy had to be pulling an April Fool's joke on him Saturday when he claimed the Dallas Mavericks center had sucker-punched Dwight Howard in the back during Friday's game.
Haywood, making an appearance Monday morning on the Ben & Skin Show on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM, said he quickly realized Van Gundy wasn't kidding around.
"I was at home and I thought Stan Van Gundy was setting everybody up because it was April 1st," Haywood said. "I thought it was a big April Fool’s joke. I thought we’re all going to laugh about it, and then I realized he was serious. There's nothing to it."
Haywood, who claimed innocence after Sunday's practice, was still chuckling about Van Gundy's accusation Monday morning, making light of it when he was introduced onto the show: "I’m just sitting here training with Floyd Mayweather getting ready for my next fight," Haywood said.
Van Gundy wasn't laughing when he made the claim after the Magic's Saturday practice in which Howard did not participate, and he certainly wasn't chipper Sunday when back spasms sidelined Howard in the Magic's 104-101 loss against Denver. It was only the eighth game Howard has missed in his eight-year career and the third due to injury.
Van Gundy didn't specify when the alleged incident occurred, but he accused Haywood of punching Howard in the back twice during one possession and said he planned to send video of the infraction to the league office.
"It's really ridiculous and I want to get it on film and send it in," Van Gundy said Saturday, according to OrlandoMagic.com. "Haywood just punched him literally with a closed fist right in the back. So [Howard] got through the game because he was loose, but then it really tightened up."
Haywood, who had missed the previous seven games with a sprained right knee, reiterated that he didn't throw any punches. Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said his staff has reviewed the game film and and found no evidence of a punch.
"I guess he’s got something no one else has," Haywood said of Van Gundy. "Like I said, it’s a physical game and sometimes guys get testy with elbows thrown, forearms, but no one throws any punches out there. Most of the NBA guys, without a doubt, it’s all WWE to us. We’re fake tough guys. No one throws any real punches. It’s unfortunate Stan feels that way. I know he has to protect his guy, but that’s just not the case. No one has any footage of it I guess except him, so unless he had [assistant coach] Patrick Ewing on the bench taping with his iPhone, I don’t think that really happened."
Haywood called Howard the most physical player in the league and said that 6-foot-11, 266-pound All-NBA center made his presence felt on the opening possession.
"The first play of the game he popped me real good in my chest," Haywood said. "He hit me so hard in my chest, I felt it in my knee. You’re never supposed to get hit hard enough in your chest that you feel it in your knee. I didn’t know what that was about."
The league office did not immediately respond to an email asking if it has received a video from the Magic. Haywood said he isn't concerned about any disciplinary action because he doesn't believe the punch exists.
"No one has this footage except for Stan," Haywood said. "Stan has it and it’s going in his video archive."