On Tuesday, the Los Angeles head coach Mike D’Antoni spoke with a Los Angeles-based radio station, expressing his sentiments on Dwight “D12” Howard leaving the Lakers for the Houston Rockets.
“It’s hard for me to sit here and criticize or to even understand why he left a place like LA,” D’Antoni said. “That’s kind of mind-boggling a little bit, but that’s in his DNA and what he wants to do.”
Others like Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, however, could tell what was coming.
“It wasn’t a surprise,” he said. “I had a feeling that Houston was a frontrunner, and whenever a player is an unrestricted free agent, anything can happen.”
As a fan of basketball and an avid viewer (when school and studying permits), I thought it was obvious that Howard was not only going to leave, but that he never should have come to Los Angeles in the first place.
The first problem was the presence of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant. Howard had just come from the Orlando Magic, where he was the franchise player and the star of the show. You think Orlando, you think D12. After a while, you get used to that kind of attention, which he did.
Upon coming to Los Angeles, Howard acknowledged publicly that this is still “Kobe’s team” and he would take a backseat to and learn from Bryant in hopes that the team would one day become his. However, I am not totally convinced he held to this belief. Once you’ve been a star, it is hard to relinquish that title, especially with a personality like Howard’s.
He was not used to sharing the spotlight and could not speak against it because he was the “new kid on the block.” Instead, he acted out and did not give his all during games. His father even got involved in the matter, making comments that could have added fuel to the fire.
Another problem was that D12 was not a good fit for D’Antoni’s system. If Howard would have really looked at how D’Antoni does things and seriously spoke with him about his style of play, he may not have been a “bad fit.”
More than anything, I believe that Howard was blinded by the flashing lights and celebrity status of a city like Los Angeles, not to mention their numerous championships. He truly believed that he could come in and win a championship.
Ultimately, there were too many egos involved and somebody had to go. Since Bryant is (and will be until he leaves) the star and franchise player of the Lakers, it had to be D12.
Although many people did not like Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neal’s comments about Howard leaving, it is true. Houston is a safer choice than LA and there isn’t as much pressure to be a superstar. When you think Lakers, you think about people like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaq, Magic Johnson, people that are considered some of the best players to play the game; you think about legacies and championships.
The Rockets don’t have that kind of perception, although they have won two championships and had Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon on their roster.
The question now is how Howard will perform in Houston. The pressure is off and he can now be the new face of the Rockets. Will his presence be enough to win them a championship? Only time will tell.
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- Mike D’Antoni: Dwight Howard’s Decision to Leave Lakers ‘mind-boggling’