Posted July 31, 2013

Mike D’Antoni: Dwight Howard’s decision to leave Lakers ‘mind-boggling’

2013 NBA free agency, Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers, Mike D'Antoni, Rob Mahoney
Dwight Howard elected to leave the Lakers (and head coach Mike D'Antoni) after a single season. (Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

Dwight Howard elected to leave the Lakers (and coach Mike D’Antoni) after one season. (Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

Absent of context, Dwight Howard’s decision to leave behind both the Lakers and the Los Angeles area might seem perplexing. Both, after all, are storied and generally desired. Houston and the Rockets, fair or unfair, don’t carry the same cachet.

Count Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni among those baffled that Howard declined the Lakers’ five-year, $118 million offer in favor of the Rockets’ four-year, $88 million deal. In an interview with a Los Angeles-based radio show on Tuesday, D’Antoni expressed some confusion as to why Howard would leave such an apparently optimal situation. Via ESPN Los Angeles:

“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.”

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Howard was genetically predisposed to spurning the Lakers, nor would I find it all that “mind-boggling” that a person would deign to live in any other city and that a player would choose to work for any other team. D’Antoni knows better than to say either. To be fair, though, both the coach and the team he represents are in circle-the-wagons mode after their assumed cornerstone elected to sign elsewhere. And D’Antoni walked back his comments a bit as he continued:

“Everybody has got to make that decision,” D’Antoni said. “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. You hate it. Dwight’s one of the better centers in the league and it would have been a long-term thing, but I looked at it like, ‘OK, you don’t have Dwight but you got Pau [Gasol].’ So, we’ll see. In the short run, we’ll see what happens. In the long run, obviously 10 years from now Dwight might still be playing and maybe Pau is retired, but everybody has got to do [what's best for them].”

And there it is: That Howard “didn’t think he would be be as happy [in L.A.] as he will be in Houston” makes for a perfectly justifiable explanation for his departure. He’s moving on from a year of intense criticism, a season under a coach whose system he didn’t prefer, a team built around a difficult personality and a roster with an inescapably aging core. Houston was the better basketball fit and clearly interests Howard in ways that are fairly apparent.

Lakers GM not surprised by Howard’s departure

D’Antoni likely understands this on some level. He can feign incredulity as a Lakers representative, but Howard’s decision was not a surprise or some baseless error in judgment.

44 comments
SuitordeAnima
SuitordeAnima

"Both, after all, are storied and generally desired."

Not everybody finds L.A. to be a "desirable" place to live -- or even visit, for that matter. It's plastic, polluted, and overpopulated. On top of that, who knows where the Lakers are going to be in a few years when Kobe is gone? I really don't see why Lakers fans and the organization itself are so shocked by the decision.

TylerAllen
TylerAllen

Dwight Howard decision to not work for the worst owner in the league, Playing for the worst coach in the league, along side the worst team-mate in the league = smart

Jim Buss's decision to hire No'D = retarded

mahi2mahi
mahi2mahi

Can we move on from this subject. 

SteveBienefeld
SteveBienefeld

Two reasons Howard spurned the Lakers and signed with Houston.  First, in order to agree to stay he wanted the Lakers to dump Kobe (amnesty him), so the Lakers would be "his" team.  Second, I don't think he really wanted to have the pressure of playing for such a storied team, with sky-high expectations every season and knowing that if they faltered, he'd take the blame.  The pressure and expectations will be much less in Houston than they would have been in LA, while he gets to be the "man" and still get lots of media exposure.  Personally, I can't wait to start hearing the rumblings that will start coming out of Houston about Howard trying to pressure the GM to make personnel moves based on his desires like he did in Orlando.  Good luck with this guy Houston.

Aaron14
Aaron14

Losing over $30 million is not "some baseless error in judgement?" You know Dwight wasn't planning on losing that money or he wouldn't have said he was bummed out about it at the end of the process, Mahoney. That is clearly an ERROR IN JUDGEMENT, smart guy.

FredFlintsone
FredFlintsone

not as mind boggling as lakers hiring d'antoni, a coach whose teams never even pretend to play any defense

Ciscos
Ciscos

Perhaps if D'Antoni adapted his offense for the players he had, instead of incorporating a "one size fits all" scheme, Howard would have stayed.

Perhaps if Jim Buss checked his wounded ego over Phil Jackson, then Jacks would have been the head coach and certainly his basketball IQ would have found a way to blend Gasol and Howard on the court at the same time. See Bynum and Gasol for examples.

Perhaps had Kobe realized Howard is a mental midget and soft in the middle he would have realized that the tough love treatment wouldn't work. Kobe could have backed off and let Diane Cannon do the talking.

Perhaps Steve Nash and Kobe could have taken Howard to dinner more often, took him to the movies a few times, bought him some candy and sent him flowers every Monday, Howard would have known how much they needed him.

Perhaps if Los Angeles and the Lakers lowered their expectations on winning championships, Howard would have gladly stayed. You'know, take down all the banners, erase the names of the legends off the wall, and put those 16 trophies in storage, Howard wouldn't have been offended and stayed.

Perhaps if the Los Angeles Times reporters hadn't pointed out flaws in his game and simply washed over them Howard would have been happier and was less stressed.

Perhaps if Howard knew what it took to "win a ring", he'd understand that being the class clown isn't the road to the podium. He would have developed his game, embraced his teammates and D'Antoni's blown offense more. He would have "sucked it up" with Kobe and learned the level of committment needed to be a champion (see Lebron's humility speech). Howard would have understood that the Lakers didn't get those 16 titles from Walmarts sale rack. He would have known they don't sit on their hands.

Perhaps if Howard's spine was made of bone and muscle and not jelly and Elmer's glue, he'd be a much more desirable player, instead of the most criticized.

That's a lot if perhaps for someone whose more drama than player.

mon1
mon1

If Kobe will be healthy, Lakers will a higher seed in the playoffs.  Howard don't have it that is why he left LA.

hubrob107
hubrob107

Wow, Dantoni cannot be this stupid.  HE LEFT BC OF YOU DUUMMBAAASSS

bklyn
bklyn

Rob, please stop, you're making a fool of yourself...you can't keep sucking on the Dwight teet...

jim88
jim88

Maybe somebody reminded him that he wouldn't be paying half of his salary to the State of Perpetual Entitlement that is California.

utoo
utoo

What is mind boggling is anyone wanting to play for D'Antoni. What is more mind boggling is Lakers hiring D'Antoni and keeping him after a failed season where they was expected to be in the finals if not win it all.

Dodgers
Dodgers

D'Antoni's style never clicked with D12 or any of the other players, not even Nash.

D'Antoni led his team below .500 for much of the season, even after the all-star break.

D'Antoni decided to play 34 year old Kobe and 39 year old Nash for 48 minutes with no break (except for halftime)

Yeah I can see why he's baffled that D12 left.

MackD27
MackD27

You want Mind Boggling??!!  The Lakers front office decision not to take PhilJackson back. THAT IS MIND BOGGLING!!!!! Hand the keys over to your sis. She still has a chance of getting him back. 

SukeMadiq
SukeMadiq

LA is gross, the coach and Kobe both suck.

6marK6
6marK6

Hmm, win 60 games with the Rockets or finish out of the playoffs with the Lakers????

CucamongaKing
CucamongaKing

He left the day JIM COCAINE HEAD BUSS, decided he would not step aside to give Phil Jackson the keys to coach, and instead HIRED you who has never won anything.


Cocaine head will keep the Lakers down for a decade


gusCOYS
gusCOYS

MD needs to shut up and move on, why bring up old news?

DanaBunner
DanaBunner

Er, ah, perhaps he wasn't too thrilled with playing for you, Mike.

Bearsclone
Bearsclone

@Aaron14 Dwight will be rich either way, and he isn't really losing 30 million dollars.  That 30 million includes the extra year on the contract, which is still a year he can play later on.

What he actually loses is the slightly increased max salary he would get each year for staying with the team that holds his Bird rights (LA in this case) but given the massive difference in state income tax even that is largely a wash.


Best case scenario for him would have been a sign and trade, but the Lakers obviously weren't interested in doing that, so that wasn't an option,

Panther06
Panther06

@FredFlintsone I agree with you Fred, why would the Lakers hire a coach like D'antoni? He never plays defense, his past teams were always mediocre, the Knicks rebelled against him, and he has no cache with star players because he has not done anything to warrant it. I'm a Laker for life and I still don't understand why he is still coaching our team.

6marK6
6marK6

@FredFlintsone The GM has and will always be the most important person for a team. The Clippers won despite Del Negro, because the talent was there.

6marK6
6marK6

@Ciscos Too many people have bought this myth that Kobe put the Lakers on his back and won five rings. That is completely bogus. Sadly, Kobe thinks it is true, as such, he mandates that all his teammates treat him as such. If I am a talented player with potential, I am going to a "team" where I can flourish and have success. Being on the court to see some aging prima donna chunk up 40 jumpers a game does not do it for me.

Bearsclone
Bearsclone

@mon1 Lakers will not make the playoffs this year, no matter how healthy Kobe is or isn't. 

They have an old roster and a coach who doesn't believe in defense.

mystafugee
mystafugee

@jim88 What do you consider to be entitlements?  I'm assuming you got no entitlements in your life, right?  

pcwhite2
pcwhite2

@utoo 

Agree.  My mind is boggling right now just thinking about what you wrote.

Sportsfan18
Sportsfan18

@Dodgers  What?  I am NOT a Laker fan in anyway shape or form but I do appreciate the truth and facts...

You said D'Antoni led his team below .500... even after the all-star break.

Well I didn't look up how many games they played after the all-star break BUT I did look at the Lakers record for their last 41 games or exactly half of their 82 game season.

The Lakers finished their last 41 games with 28 wins and 13 losses which is a .683 winning percentage which only 4 teams exceeded for the entire season last year.


As far as you saying that D'Antoni played Kobe and Nash for 48 mins without a break except for halftime, well after checking for the facts, it turns out Nash average 32.5 min's a game last yr.  Kobe did play a lot, too much as he averaged 38.6 mins a game last year but please keep in mind that Kobe played 38.5 mins per game the season before D'Antoni coached the Lakers so D'Antoni decided to play Kobe the same as he had the season before...

On the other hand, it should be obvious to everyone why Dwight left LA.

6marK6
6marK6

@MackD27 Phil does not want to coach, he wants his role to be in management and ownership. He has NO background in this. Heck, Phil just wants attention.

Braktooth
Braktooth

@CucamongaKing I wonder how many times Phil Jackson has to say that he's not coaching again before people drop this line?

Aaron14
Aaron14

He was already richer than crap. The future is promised to no one so you don't know if he will get back the money he lost on this contract. Andrew Bynum would have gotten a max deal if he were healthy this last year. Plus you know McHale and the gang NEVER told Dwight that he was not going to get that money. Dwight was actually still thinking he might get it at the end of the ordeal and said so! 

The fact that taxes in Texas are much less means he would have pocketed about $25 million out of that $30+ million he lost so your argument only proves my point that Dwight Howard made an "ERROR IN JUDGEMENT."

The Lakers would have LOVED to make a sign and trade. The problem with that was that Houston has nothing but one-way players (mainly offensive contributors only) that NOBODY wants besides Harden and no quality draft choices.

Ciscos
Ciscos

@6marK6 @Ciscos ~ Of course and I wasn't implying that Kobe had.  My point was Kobe learned what it took to be champion from a focus and determination standpoint.  Howard has none of those traits.  

It's no different than Lebron learning/recognizing from Wade the intensity (although LBJ had been to the finals once) and level of commitment needed - which is why LBJ humbled himself after they lost to the Mavericks, recommitted himself to his game in the off-season and has been on beast mode ever since.  And I'm not even a LBJ fan! lol

Cubano
Cubano

@6marK6   Hey Markie Mark, you say you follow the Mavs?  Good luck with Calderon and Ellis backcourt, aging Dirk and no knees Blair...no 'D' in Dallas this year or forseeable future.  But hey, Cuban got somebody to take his money, hahahhahaha.  

CucamongaKing
CucamongaKing

@Braktooth @CucamongaKing 

TOOL

He was set to take the job, but he wanted Jim Buss to stay upstairs and not interfere and BUSS said no.    So Phil said no.    Why do you think they went to his house after Brown was fired: because Phil wanted friends over?

READ before commenting. 

6marK6
6marK6

@Cubano @6marK6 The Mavs and the Lakers are identical teams. Poor managment creating a makeshift lineup around an aging superstar. All the while dreaming about mythical free agents they will never sign. Identical. I can see that.

Bearsclone
Bearsclone

@CucamongaKing Phil has had a dozen other offers for coaching jobs, and has turned them all down by trying to steer the conversation towards being a GM instead.


Bearsclone
Bearsclone

@CucamongaKing @Braktooth Phil has flat out stated he has no interest in coaching any more.  Doesn't want the travel, doesn't want the odd hours.  The reason talks broke down is because he wanted a boatload of money, wouldn't coach any road games, and wanted executive power, which threatens both the GM and owner.

A dozen other teams have all inquired about having Phil Jackson coach, and he's not interested.  Did JIm Buss also scare Phil Jackson away from those coaching jobs?  

Moron.

CucamongaKing
CucamongaKing

Braktoothwurst

I'm gonna let you in on a little clue to life. When I managed a business I said u guys are the best employees, although I knew half were crap. When I taught high school I said I had no favorites, it was BS 10% were rats, when I worked as a college teacher I stated u get the grade u earn, but regularly gave students I liked a 2% bump.

People all the time say what they don't mean: what else is Phil gonna say. That mind blowing piece of logic I should charge u a couple grand for as u have spent your entire life in a cloud.

Braktooth
Braktooth

@CucamongaKing @Braktooth He physically can't do the job anymore, even if he wanted to. He's stated that several times. If he'd taken it then, he'd have retired again by now. What part of this are you unclear of? Perhaps you should listen to the man, and not your own basketball-related fantasies.

NeoSmith
NeoSmith

@mystafugee @CucamongaKing @Braktooth No... Phil said on Leno that he TOLD Jim Bust that he needed the weekend to think it over.  He was surprised on Sunday when he heard the Lakers had hired D'Antoni without even giving him a chance to respond.  The fault lies squarely on Jim Bust.