Report: Dwight Howard left Lakers in part because Kobe would not pass torch

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Honestly, there are a lot of reasons Dwight Howard chose Houston over Los Angeles. Mike D’Antoni’s offense and how Howard fits in it is certainly part of it. That D’Antoni was hired when Howard had repeatedly told management he wanted Phil Jackson was part of it. Howard felt he wasn’t listened to. He felt his teammates didn’t stick up for him and how he played through injuries. It was a lot of things.

And you can add the fact the Lakers are and for a while will remain Kobe’s team to the list, writes Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein at ESPN.com.

Sources told ESPN.com that Howard and his representatives, in a handful of meetings with Lakers officials before he became a free agent July 1, strongly suggested that the center would have a difficult time re-signing with Los Angeles if Bryant stayed with the franchise beyond the 2013-14 season, the final year of his current contract.

From the moment the Lakers got Howard to Los Angeles, part of the pitch was that this would be his team when Kobe Bryant walked away — and Kobe dropped a lot of hints that he was going to play one more season and walk away in 2014. Nobody fully bought it, but he was suggesting it.

Until he injured his Achilles — that gave Kobe an obstacle to overcome. Suddenly he was talking about playing three more years.

And if Kobe wants to stay, he stays — he means more to the psyche and financial bottom line of this team than Howard. Kobe is the Lakers right now, the guy that fills the seats and brings in the sponsors. Management will give him what he wants.

Just to really smear Howard’s reputation in Los Angeles is this note from the same ESPN story.

As an offshoot of those discussions, sources said, Howard’s camp at one point asked the Lakers whether they were at least considering releasing Bryant through the league’s amnesty provision, since Bryant’s return date from Achilles tendon surgery remained in question.

This entire incident just fits with the bad timing and miscommunications by both sides while Howard was in Los Angeles.

But there is one other side to this — Howard never played well enough to just take over the Lakers and demand the torch be passed. Howard never earned that conversation on the court. Part of that was injuries, certainly, but last season Kobe Bryant exceeded expectations and Howard fell short. Dwyane Wade eventually ceded all the power in Miami to LeBron James, but because LeBron demanded it with his play. Howard never came close to that in Los Angeles.

The bad Howard/Lakers marriage has disintegrated. And like the dissolution of most marriages it was not just one thing but a storm of a whole lot of them at once.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.