Yesterday, we told you of Stephen A. Smith’s claims that Dwight Howard wants Phil Jackson as his coach, and if D12 leaves the Los Angeles Lakers this summer, it’s mainly because of Mike D’Antoni.
Toady, there’s a new report – this time via Dave McMenamin – that doesn’t mention Phil, but does shed some light on the way Dwight apparently feels about D’Antoni.
Howard was one of just four Lakers to meet with Mitch Kupchak separately after their exit meeting with Kupchak and D’Antoni – Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol were two of the others, while Antawn Jamison only met with Mitch due to a scheduling issue.
According to McMenamin, Howard’s discussion with Kupchak was almost exclusively about his issues with D’Antoni:
[pullquote]According to sources with knowledge of the situation, part of the discussion between Howard and Kupchak centered around Howard’s frustration with D’Antoni — particularly how the center felt marginalized as the coach looked to Bryant and Steve Nash for leadership and suggestions and discounted Howard’s voice.[/pullquote]
This has been a situation that has been brewing for a while now. Ever since the Lakers were struggling and Howard was complaining about D’Antoni’s coaching style, there was always the feeling that the Lakers’ head coach could affect Dwight’s decision in free agency.
McMenamin also heard from a source that the letting go of assistant coach Chuck Person – and the possible departure of Steve Clifford if he lands a head coaching job elsewhere – would essentially “removing the buffers,” between Howard and D’Antoni, “which is a bad thing.”
Howard seemingly grew close to Person in his first year with the Lakers, yet D’Antoni removed “The Rifleman” from his coaching staff earlier this month, along with Bernie Bickerstaff, another assistant coach who Dwight spoke glowingly about at times during the season. Clifford came to the Lakers last year after previously coaching Howard in Orlando, and while D’Antoni apparently wants to keep hold of Clifford, the Charlotte Bobcats and Milwaukee Bucks are reportedly interested in hiring him as their head coach.
Dwight is in a tough position. While he doesn’t want to be seen as a “coach killer”, he’s a free agent this summer and obviously can choose where he wants to play, and that includes the coach he wants to play for. If he doesn’t like the way he’s used in D’Antoni’s system, why would he want to re-sign in Los Angeles?
While Mitch Kupchak said in his exit interview that the team would not fire a coach just to please a player, it’s hard to imagine that the Lakers would rather let Howard walk than fire D’Antoni.