There were a multitude of reasons Dwight Howard bolted the Lakers to land with the Rockets, but in the end it all came down to trust — Howard didn’t trust the Lakers would feature him properly and build a contender around him.
That’s the opposite of Kobe Bryant back in 2004 — Kobe was very close to leaving for the Clippers, but Jerry Buss called him up, and because they had a mutual trust, Buss talked him out of leaving.
Jeanie Buss, the daughter of Jerry and one of the Lakers co-owners, thinks if her father had been around Howard would be with the Lakers today. That’s what she told ESPN Radio in Los Angeles on Thursday, as transcribed by Ramona Shelburne at ESPNLosAngeles.com.
“They would’ve probably had a better relationship if my dad hadn’t been sick,” Jeanie Buss said …. “When it came time to try to convince Dwight to stay, we lost the best closer in the business in Dr. Buss.
“Putting up the billboard maybe wasn’t the right thing. But we maybe have to learn to do things differently because Dr. Buss isn’t here anymore. People said [of the billboards], ‘Oh, that’s not the Laker way.’ Well, the Laker way isn’t the same, because Dr. Buss isn’t here.”
The billboard was playing to his ego, playing to Howard’s need for praise and reinforcement. But it was a poor substitute for the kind of relationship and trust the Lakers had a season to forge with Howard and couldn’t.
Then he meets with Houston, and they can sell him on winning basketball, but more than that Chandler Parsons sells him on team camaraderie and a collegial atmosphere. It’s the things he didn’t think he could get in Los Angeles.
Would Jerry Buss have made a difference? If he were healthy and in his prime, my guess is a number of things would have been different. Who knows if that would have kept Howard in town.