The Dwight Howard saga never seems to go away when it comes to the Los Angeles Lakers, and the latest report on what the mercurial big man demanded when he met with team officials during the NBA’s 2013 free agency period will only add fuel to the flames of controversy.
According to NBA insider Ric Bucher, Howard asked for head coach Mike D’Antoni to be fired and for the Lakers to use their one-time amnesty provision on Kobe Bryant.
Talks with various people close to the situation make it clear there were two prerequisites for Dwight Howard to remain a Laker: fire Mike D’Antoni and amnesty, or at the very least muzzle, Kobe Bryant. As audacious as that might sound, it doesn’t come without precedent in Lakers’ history. When Kobe re-upped in 2004, it coincided with (Shaquille O’Neal) being shipped to Miami and Phil Jackson being let go. Of course, Kobe didn’t have to pressure the team braintrust — Mitch Kupchak and Jerry and Jim Buss — to make those moves, since Dr. Buss, in particular, was done with both Shaq and Phil at the time.
Given the rumblings that Howard was unhappy with D’Antoni and the Lakers’ system and playing with Bryant, the news that he asked for each to be moved is not a surprise. The ultimatum of getting rid of the two things that most got in the way of making Howard’s tenure with the Lakers enjoyable.
A series of anomalies including a freak number of injuries, an in-season coaching change and resulting poor chemistry all played a role in making things miserable for Dwight. Through it all, however, it was clear that Bryant and D’Antoni never meshed well with Howard.
The ironic thing is that D’Antoni made adjustments specifically geared toward keeping Howard engaged and involved on the offensive end of the floor. When he benched Pau Gasol in the fourth quarter of games, it was due to the Spaniard’s ineffectiveness playing out of the high post, where Howard couldn’t due to his offensive limitations.
The pick-and-roll also turned Howard off, and that was yet another systematic issue that caused friction between him and the coaching staff. The Lakers did everything in their power to keep him, but getting rid of an NBA legend who was the face of the franchise and a coach who they just hired was never an option.
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