The Dwight Howard Lakers saga just won’t die. After the publication of Ric Bucher’s THR piece about the Buss siblings, he has passed along some extra quotes that didn’t make it into the piece, but that reveal some interesting revelations about Dwight’s demands if he had re-signed with the Lakers.
Here’s what Bucher revealed on his Sulia account yesterday:
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.
Bucher goes on to compare what Dwight asked for to the disintegrating Lakers team in the summer of 2004. That offseason saw Phil Jackson let go as the head coach and Shaquille O’Neal dealt to the Miami Heat. It broke up a nucleus — including Bryant — that had captured the first three championships in the new millennium and dynasty that could have continued to compete for titles as long as Shaq remained healthy.
When Kobe re-upped in 2004, it coincided with Shaq being shipped to Miami and Phil Jackson being let go. Of course, Kobe didn’t have to pressure the team braintrust [sic] — 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.
The Lakers’ response to Dwight’s stipulations preached patience with both Kobe and D’Antoni for another year since Kobe’s contract ends next summer and perhaps Phil Jackson — who Howard has been vocal about playing for — might be brought back into the fold, though this wasn’t mentioned directly by Bucher or Buss.
The Lakers apparently asked Dwight to be patient on both fronts for at least another season, telling him “hey, you’re going to have to gut this out another year,” a source said, although it sounds as if VP of basketball ops Jim Buss isn’t ready to abandon Kobe anytime soon. “Dwight didn’t want to play with Kobe for 2-3 more years,” Buss said. “I’m going to stand behind Kobe because of his history with the franchise.” It would seem, then, with all that happened, the Lakers had the wherewithal to keep Howard if they had desired; they simply found the price too high.
This paints a picture where the Lakers’ managers — Kupchak and Jim Buss — were sticking with Kobe despite the allure of Dwight joining their team for the next five years (remember, they were the only team that could offer him five years under the new CBA).
Bucher also added a caveat after his initial Sulia post, where he made it clear that Dwight never explicitly asked for the firing of D’Antoni.
I know you’re tired of this story and I hope this is the last post on the Howard-Lakers subject but an important clarification from my previous item: Howard, in the final conversations before leaving for Houston, didn’t specifically tell the Lakers that if coach Mike D’Antoni was fired he’d stay and the Lakers never made the offer to do so if it would convince Howard to re-up.
Since D’Antoni was only implicitly involved, the real news here is Howard’s dissatisfaction playing alongside Kobe Bryant. While Kobe has revealed recently that he’s maturing as a leader in his 30′s by toning down his usually acerbic tone with teammates, it seems the Lakers again weren’t big enough to accommodate the egos of two stars simultaneously.
Let’s all hope this is the end of the stories about Dwight Howard leaving Los Angles. But for a team like the Lakers to miss out on a potenial franchise player who they were in a position to offer the most money, it’s not likely to subside anytime soon. It’s too rife with soap opera drama like this recent post from Bucher.
The Lakers travel to Houston in the first few weeks next season, and Dwight makes his return to the Staples center on February 19. Should be fun to watch his return unfold because you know the Lakers fans have a few things they want to say once Howard is announced as a starter…for the Rockets.
If the Lakers agreed to fire D’Antoni and amnesty Kobe, would Dwight Howard have re-signed?
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