Lakers fans don’t want to hear this, but Dwight Howard handled the mechanics of his free agency pretty well. He met with teams but relatively quietly, not with media really camped outside the meetings. He made his decision quickly. He called the teams personally to inform them. Word leaked out faster than he and his team wanted (they should have been prepared for that) but there was no PR disaster of a television announcement.
However a lot of fans — as well as players such as new Clipper Jared Dudley — want to know why he really left Los Angeles. Because his explanation that it was a number of factors may be true but doesn’t mesh with our desire for one simple, clean reason.
Simple reasons such as he didn’t like playing with Kobe Bryant. Stephen A. Smith asked him about that as part of a lengthy interview with Howard on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
“Was it tough playing with Kobe? Yea, it was very tough. But playing along with Kobe didn’t have any parts of my decision going to Houston. I just felt like Houston was a better situation for me and my career. Me and Kobe, we had our disagreements, we had our moments. Everybody knows Kobe likes to score and there were times we would get at it getting the ball. And that happens on a team. ”
Howard went on to say he has to blame himself for letting the relationship get that way, for not demanding the ball with his play. Which is all true.
So Kobe played no part? Sure.
Kobe was one of those many factors for Howard — he wants a team that he feels is his and as long as Kobe pulls on a Lakers jersey that will be his team, his locker room. Howard could have tried to grab the reins of the team with his play, but he wasn’t up to the task both physically and in terms of maturity..
What I hear was the biggest factor was not Kobe however: The Rockets with Howard are contenders (they have to mesh, roster tweaks will be needed, but they are in the conversation now). The Lakers have the cap space to rebuild this team into a contender around Howard next summer, but he didn’t fully trust that management could pull that off. He knew what he was getting in Houston.
In the end, if Howard fights through the eventual adversity and wins a ring or rings with James Harden in Houston then he can easily justify his choice. He doesn’t win and that weighs on his legacy. He has to do it and do it in Houston. This was his choice of landing spots, there is no forcing your way out of the situation if you don’t like it. He has to just win now. It’s on him.