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Dwight Howard wanted Phil Jackson to be his coach. It was the worst kept secret in the NBA. So, why didn’t the Los Angeles Lakers fire Mike D’Antoni in order to keep Howard in town?
According to Ramona Shelburne, the Lakers decided that the franchise was bigger than Mr. Howard:
Firing D’Antoni and replacing him with Jackson or his protégé Brian Shaw might have done that. But that would’ve been a major step, and Howard had done little in his year in Los Angeles to warrant such treatment, in the eyes of the front office.
That’s especially true after the team had shown encouraging signs by going 28-12 in the second half of the season, when Howard acquiesced to running D’Antoni’s offense with more gusto, and D’Antoni bent some of his philosophies to better fit the roster.
Hard as it was to swallow, management determined that if Howard left it would be for more reasons than just the decision to hire D’Antoni.
Ultimately, the Lakers decided that the franchise was bigger than one player. Or at least this particular player.
While I’ll admit that I called for D’Antoni’s firing if it meant Dwight would re-sign, you have to remember that Lakers management are the ones who have had day-to-day dealings with Howard. They know if he’s worth firing a coach for – and succumbing to his demands – and they concluded that he wasn’t.
As Shelburne points out in her brilliant article, “Howard wasn’t who the Lakers thought he was. And the Lakers weren’t what Howard wanted them to be.”
That’s why they ended up parting ways.
If the Lakers had ended up firing D’Antoni to keep Howard in town – oh, and there’s no assurances that firing MDA would change his decision seeing as Howard wanted to leave for multiple reasons – then it would likely just be a start of the demands from the All-Star center.
Sure, Howard is great, but is he that great? Is he great enough to risk ruining the reputation of a franchise? Is he great enough to take a chance on and hope that he won’t come to blows with Kobe or Nash or another player who won’t let him have his way? If he re-signs, will he start complaining when he doesn’t get 20 shots? Could he demand a trade a few months down the line, potentially sabotaging the Lakers’ cap space for 2014 and creating an environment which star free agents want to stay well away from? Was he really worth all that?
Ultimately, the Lakers decided that no, he wasn’t. That’s why D’Antoni is still in L.A. and Howard is now in Houston.