Instead of treating the departure of Dwight Howard after one unsuccessful season as something that should be left in the past, it seems that many among those involved with the Los Angeles Lakers, and especially Kobe Bryant and Mike D’Antoni just can’t get over the fact that they might not be the “team everyone would kill to play for.”
Even more money than anyone else could have offered wasn’t enough for Howard to choose the Lakers. In the future, that decision might turn out to be very good for the Lakers, avoiding giving a maximum contract to a player who might not be as good as he thinks he is, and certainly not good enough to be a franchise player on a championship team, according to those who with him the worst.
But it remains a very interesting aftershock-effect, listening to Mike D’Antoni go on and on about how Howard isn’t going into a better situation in Houston. The claim is that Howard didn’t buy into D’Antoni’s offensive system last season, wanting to get the ball in the low post, where he isn’t very effective, or at least a lot less effective than he is when he’s the rolling man on pick & rolls.
It’s hard for me to sit here and criticize or even to understand why he left a place like L.A.; That’s kind of mind-boggling a little bit, but that’s in his DNA and what he wants to do. You can debate it all you want. Only Dwight knows. Obviously he didn’t think he would be as happy here as he will be in Houston. That might be the case and he had to make that decision. There will be a lot of speculation, we tried it, it didn’t work out and we go forward. So be it.
The Lakers know next season is going to be very rough, and missing the playoffs is a very strong possibility. Instead of blaming the people who took such a huge risk on old players who take up too much cap space and didn’t really make Howard too welcome in Los Angeles, it’s easier to throw everything at the center, and make it seem like he’s the reason the Lakers barely made it into the postseason last year, and he’s the reason they’re not going to be competitive next year.
But Mike D’Antoni not giving his team a defensive identity, and simply relying on effort from perimeter players (which wasn’t there most of the time) and hopes Howard takes care of the rest is at fault here. Kobe Bryant never letting go of the reins and his command of the team, scorching anything around him that threatens his personal dominance and undisputed role as the star player is another issue that led to the upcoming failure.
The Lakers will rise from this mess, pretty quickly. One bad season has to happen once in while. Two is also something all great franchises have to go through. The problem with this case is that the current situation wasn’t inevitable. Even without Phil Jackson and with Mike D’Antoni, Dwight Howard could have stayed in L.A. if he felt like there’s a chance to thrive next to Kobe (and there isn’t).
The Lakers – Bryant on the court and behind the scenes, Kupchak and Buss in the frontoffice, are about power, that they never wanted to let go. At the basis of the situation the Lakers find themselves in are selfishness and being unwilling to see the truth about themselves as decision makers and Kobe Bryant as player.