Many believed before the start of free agency that D’Antoni’s perimeter-oriented offense would be the reason why Howard would leave — which was eventually confirmed when he admitted asking for Phil Jackson.
In an exclusive interview with Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News, D’Antoni broke his silence and discussed how Dwight Howard refused to accept his role and wanted to become a back-to-the-basket center:
“There was a lot of conflict, emotionally. People were not settled into their roles. But it’s funny because a lot of times players will say ‘I don’t know my role.’ It’s not that you don’t know it, you just don’t accept it.”
D’Antoni thought it was rather ironic that Howard chose Houston, a team that relies heavily on the pick-and-roll:
“The thing that cracks me up is Houston, they do the exact same thing. And so (Howard) is gonna go to Houston? OK, so did they talk about change there? Don’t tell me that it’s different.”
While Howard had his indirect parting shot for his former coach, D’Antoni complimented the All-Star but delivered his own shot:
“He’s a force and he can be really, really good and dominate the league. But it’s in an area that he’s not loving right now. He wants to dominate a different way, in the low post and all that. But he needs to get better there, and he will. But his greatness is in defense and being a physical force. I think he’d be better served if he embraces that.”
When D’Antoni arrived, he envisioned having the best pick-and-roll big man playing with Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. However, Howard simply refused to accept his role in the offense and wanted to be something he clearly wasn’t. Instead of playing to his strengths, Howard wanted to showcase his limited post-moves in Los Angeles.
D’Antoni will continue to take heat for Howard’s departure, but he did gradually adjust his offense that featured more post-ups for Howard, Gasol, and Bryant which led to a 28-12 finish.
With players that are excited about playing for the Lakers and D’Antoni’s offense, there should be less conflict this upcoming season, which will hopefully translate into more wins.
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