We can all say what we want about it. Howard is a coward, he is not mentally tough, he doesn’t want to be anyone’s sidekick, he can’t stand the coach and he has no respect for the Lakers’ tradition; I mean we have heard it all, and it is all justified. Los Angeles just isn’t the right spot for Howard at this day and age. I get that, but Los Angeles could have avoided the events yesterday if it wasn’t for one man — the one person that has an ego bigger then Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson combined.
Jim Buss, son of the late, great Dr. Jerry Buss and brother to the highly respected Jeanie Buss, runs the basketball operations for the Lakers. Taking over duties for his father when he became ill, Buss wanted to rebuild the Lakers in his own image.
When Jackson retired in 2011, assistant coach Brian Shaw was the consensus pick to takeover the Lakers and lead them to another title, but that wasn’t Buss’ plan. He ignored Bryant’s recommendation of Shaw and went with offensively challenged head coach Mike Brown.
After that surprising coaching hire, the Lakers made a deal that sent away Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom for elite point guard Chris Paul. The league, who owned the New Orleans Hornets at the time, terminated the deal. Gasol and Odom were sent back to L.A.
The Lakers had to mend some bad feelings of the two players, but only Gasol would stay with the roster. Buss had Odom traded to the rival Dallas Mavericks for virtually nothing. The Lakers went on to play the 2011-12 season with an extremely weak bench and were eliminated by the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games in the second round of the playoffs.
Odom was the x-factor for the Lakers for many seasons, but Buss sent him away instead of trying to make amends with him for being traded away and sent back due to technicalities. Buss disrespected Odom to the highest degree and the franchise is still paying for it.
Fast forward to after the first five games of last season: coach Brown is fired and Dwight Howard along with Bryant express their desire to have Jackson back in the fold as head coach. Jackson’s triangle offense has benefited the Lakers with five championships in the recent past. Jackson wanted the job. The fans wanted Jackson. The players wanted Jackson. The only person that didn’t want Jackson was Buss.
Buss never really embraced Jackson as a person. The two never had more than a working relationship, even though Jackson is engaged to marry Buss’ sister.
Not willing to admit his mistake in choosing Brown as head coach, Buss went against the grain again and in a shocking turn of events, hired defensively challenged head coach Mike D’Antoni over Jackson.
Ignoring the fact that Howard gave no signs of making a commitment last season, Buss refused to trade the center at the trade deadline. The Lakers went on to be swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs.
Buss refused to admit the D’Antoni hire was a complete failure. He had the whole organization stand behind D’Antoni during the Howard sweepstakes after the season ended.
Buss ordered the Lakers to put up billboards around the city to get Howard to stay with the franchise, but he ignored his biggest problem with the Lakers franchise: the fact that never brought back Jackson and brought in D’Antoni instead.
Howard wants to be a champion, and Jackson with his 11 rings was the ideal person, teamed with Bryant, to get him there, but it was not what Buss wanted. He wanted Howard to stay on his terms. A decision that failed miserably.
Sorry, Buss, you are already out of strikes. Howard is out of here.
As much as Howard did not embrace the Lakers’ legacy and tradition, Buss did not embrace it either. Buss ignored what made the Lakers who they are and now the franchise is paying for that mistake. Where the Lakers go from now is dependent on Buss humbling himself and changing his ways. If he doesn’t do that, then the Lakers will not be the franchise that we are accustomed to seeing.
Haz Bey is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Haz_Bey.