We’re two summers removed from Dwight Howard’s decision to leave the Lakers in free agency, but with he and Kobe Bryant facing each other on the court for the first time since then on Tuesday, everything evidently needed to be rehashed one last time.
The Rockets cruised to victory, of course, because L.A.’s roster is in shambles following the team’s recent inability to attract star players in free agency. And not surprisingly, Bryant and Howard got into a bit of a dust-up late, where Bryant could be seen telling Howard to “try me” multiple times.
Afterward, both players downplayed the incident. But it’s clear they don’t like each other, and that undoubtedly was a primary reason for Howard choosing to play somewhere else.
But Lakers president Jeanie Buss believes that there were other factors at play, including the franchise not giving Howard its full support from day one.
From Sam Amick of USA Today:
“To me, from Day One, Dwight’s aspiration was to win a championship,” Buss said. “And when we got him, that day my phone started ringing and (fans) were like, ‘I want to buy tickets to see Steve Nash and Dwight Howard and the Lakers are going to win a championship. I want to buy tickets to one game.’ So I said, ‘You know what? If you’re going to go to one game, wait until January because my understanding is that Dwight’s back isn’t 100 percent and he might not be playing until later, so I don’t want you to come to one game and miss him.’
“So I couldn’t understand from the first day of training camp how he was practicing. But you know why? Because he was so eager to win that championship. That’s all he wanted. He came with the best of intentions. He was great with the media. He was great with all of our charity, all of our events, all of our sponsors, all of our partners. He came one day because he wanted to meet all of the employees. He just wanted to meet the employees. This was a guy who came (to the Lakers), and we let him down. That’s how I felt.”
What Buss is referring to specifically is Howard’s physical condition following back surgery the summer before coming to Los Angeles, and how the team perhaps should have been a bit more cautious and allowed Dwight some additional recovery time before pressing him into action.
But by now, we all know that it wouldn’t have mattered in terms of how the season would have unfolded, or would have affected his decision in the slightest.
The reality is that Bryant and Howard are far too different to coexist on the same team. And the way the organization supported (or didn’t support) Howard couldn’t possibly have done anything to change that.