Dwight Howard’s distaste for the offence and approach of coach Mike D’Antoni is widely cited as the biggest trigger in his decision to leave the Los Angeles Lakers.
But another key factor that led the All-Star centre to the Houston Rockets was the Lakers’ refusal to establish a clear timetable for moving on from the Kobe Bryant era. Howard felt he would have a difficult time re-signing with the team if Bryant stayed with the franchise beyond the 2013-14 season, the final year of his contract.
“I just really think the timing in LA, it wasn’t right for me,” Howard said. “Maybe two years ago, or 2-3 years from now, it would have been the right time. But I just think right now the timing was off for me. That’s not saying that LA is a bad place, but I just think it’s all about timing and fit when you’re talking about basketball.
“You can put anybody together on the court and expect them to win, but the pieces have to really fit in order for a team to be successful and it was very, very tough, man. It’s probably one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make in my life.”
The Lakers, almost from the moment Howard arrived in August 2012, had gone to great lengths to assure the 27-year-old that they saw him as the future face of the franchise and that the torch would be passed from Bryant to him in short order.
But with Bryant saying publicly just a week before free agency that he was thinking of playing at least two or three more seasons, it was hard for Howard to envision when he would assume that role.
Since Howard’s departure, Bryant has said he wasn’t going to “waste my time trying to figure out what happened” and that he was “happy” for Howard, who “made the decision he feels is best for him.”
“I think everybody is cut differently,” Bryant said. “Howard has his way of leading that he feels like would be most effective and would work for him, and obviously the way we’ve gone about it with this organisation and the leaders that we’ve had – myself, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – we’ve done it a different way.”