The general feeling among the people calling the shots for the Los Angeles Lakers is that if they fail in re-signing Dwight Howard, last season’s attempt at creating a super team is becoming a long-term failure with serious repercussions. In order to avoid that fate, they’re willing to fire Mike D’Antoni.
NBA head coaches usually get more than one season at the job, especially if they do make the playoffs. But D’Antoni isn’t the future of this franchise, that’s been made quite clear. He wasn’t the first choice after Mike Brown was fired, and in a player-driven organization, unless you’re someone like Phil Jackson, players will always come first.
It’s also worth mentioning that his record with the team last season, 40-32 during the regular season and a clean 0-4 sweep in the playoffs, doesn’t make Lakers fan feel like his system and his basketball knowledge is what they need in order to get back on the track they were used to for three consecutive seasons between 2008 and 2010.
Right now, the Lakers are losing in the race to sign Dwight Howard. The Dallas Mavericks and the Houston Rockets are in it as well, with the Rockets meeting with Howard in Los Angeles, and with Howard making winning the biggest factor in his decision, Houston and their young core and quite bright future are in the lead to make this deal happen.
The Lakers? They have a clogged salary cap to offer, with a very old team signed. Kobe Bryant making $30.4 million next season, but no one knows when he’ll be back from Achilles tendon getting torn up, and how good he’ll be. Pau Gasol has been on a steep fall for the last couple of seasons, and the D’Antoni system, just like it’s not been good for Howard, it isn’t good for him.
Steve Nash will be 40 by February. He played in 50 games last season, and he’s not likely to get much fitter next season, meaning his minutes are very limited. Steve Blake, not the youngest of backups, is also there, along with Metta World Peace (for $7.7 million!), while Chris Duhon, Jodie Meeks and Jordan Hill complete a roster that isn’t going anywhere with Howard not staying on board.
And if one of the reasons keeping Howard from getting blinded by the Lakers glamour is Mike D’Antoni, the Lakers will let him go. They still haven’t hired any assistant for exactly that reason. Howard has said he’ll make up his mind by July 10, and if in the next 10 days, the Lakers realize that firing D’Antoni improves their chances of landing Howard, they’ll make that move.
For Howard himself, the Rockets simply have a lot more to offer. A better, younger squad, that’s built to win a championship given the right additions, not to mention using Hakeem Olajuwon as an incentive and persuader to sign Howard.
The Lakers swung for the fences last year; they almost always do. But it was bad timing, and a bit of bad thinking, trying to do too much at once – creating an insanely expensive roster that relies on the health and ability of mostly old players, without any decent backup options waiting for them on the bench. It failed the first year, and it looks like Howard choosing someone else will make it a much more colossal debacle than initially thought.