By Dave Holcomb
The unthinkable occurred.
The Lakers tasted a dose of their own medicine as another team steals away their starting Center Dwight Howard only in this case for less than the Lakers offered.
In an offseason full of free agent stars, but a league with a scarcity of big men, many teams coveted Howard’s skills for their team, but a year ago, no one thought Howard would leave the Lakers after just one season. Well, no one thought the team would finish seventh in the conference either, but it happened, and the unthinkable has happened again.
Howard will sign a four-year deal worth $88 million with the Rockets when free agency starts on Wednesday according to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith. The Lakers offered five years, $118 million. Both contracts were the most each team could offer, and the center took less to leave town.
“[A championship is] the priority. That’s the priority. I’m betting $30 million on it,” said Howard according to ESPN LA.
“I just looked at both teams and I felt like Houston was going in one direction — they got a lot of young players, they got a good coach in Kevin McHale and I just felt like having him as a coach, he could really help me in the post and help me develop like I want to. That was mainly the big reason right there, and having the opportunity to grow with a team, a young team, like the Rockets. That’s the reason why [I decided to leave],” said Howard.
Certainly this decision further sends the Rockets in that direction Howard speaks of, but the story, at least for now, is how negatively this affects the Lakers. But the truth is, the Lakers have no one to blame for Howard’s departure but themselves.
As much as Howard might claim he wants to play for Houston because of coach Kevin McHale, he wants just as badly to avoid playing for coach Mike D’Antoni.
And it’s not like it’s a surprise the relationship between D’Antoni and Howard didn’t work out. The Lakers hired D’Antoni five games into the season when everyone knew it would not work.
It’s not like the Lakers didn’t know what kind of system D’Antoni wanted to run, or what kind of player Howard is. The two were never going to match, and Howard’s stats declined to 17.1 points and 12.4 rebounds per game.
What is surprising is Howard took less money to play for a team and coach better suited for him, and the way it looks now, more ready to make a championship run.
So many might claim the Lakers lost Howard last weekend, but they really lost him when they fired Mike Brown and hired Mike D’Antoni.