Sports Out West

Mike D’Antoni hints Lakers are better off without Dwight Howard

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers no longer have to worry about the distraction surrounding Dwight Howard after the big man bolted for the Houston Rockets during the offseason, and his former head coach thinks that’s a good thing. 

In a wide-ranging interview with Mike Bresnehan of the Los Angeles Times, Mike D’Antoni didn’t exactly say it in so many words, but implied that without Howard around as a distraction, the Lakers may be better on the court in 2013-14:

From the Los Angeles Times: 

Addition by subtraction? The Lakers can only hope, despite their very public courting of Howard that started a mere eight weeks ago and crashed and burned barely a week later.

“We’ve definitely improved our shooting and I think the chemistry will be better just because the uncertainty has gone away,” D’Antoni said. “A lot of people will know their roles better and what’s going on on the floor better. Dealing with free agency day to day, we won’t have those problems.”

The lack of chemistry was one of the most glaring issues throughout the season, and much of it had to do with Howard’s limitations offensively and his unwillingness to embrace the pick-and-roll. As a player who needs touches in and around the restricted area in order to be effective, the Lakers’ were more limited in what they could do from an execution standpoint. 

To be fair, the injuries that happened to nearly every key player on the roster were such an anomaly, that the cohesiveness was almost impossible to develop long-term. Still, Howard brought a circus to town with him in terms of media coverage, reputation and his pending offseason decision.

It always seemed to take away from the focus of winning basketball games. 

D’Antoni understood it when he took the job, and went on to say that he wouldn’t have done so had he not fully been able to handle the expectations of coaching behind an NBA legend. Lakers fans are a demanding bunch, often beyond reason. Cooler heads, however, understand that there are injury limitations and salary cap constraints that prevent the Lakers from fielding a “super team” every year. When Howard walked, they were still over the cap and had to settle for low-cost veterans via the minimum salary and mid-level exceptions. 

The Lakers won’t be stacked with talent in 2013-14, but they have a very real opportunity to improve upon a lost season and face the rest of the NBA with a chip on their shoulders. 

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports 

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Michael C. Jones is the managing editor and founder of Sports Out West and a Southern California-based sports journalist. His work is also regularly featured on Yahoo! Sports and SB Nation. You can catch up with him on Twitter: @MikeJonesTweets.