The ’12/’13 Lakers were Kobe’s last realistic chance at a title. Pau Gasol was still a very good player, and they brought in Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to create a new team of superstars. Shortly into the season, they hired Mike D’Antoni to lead them to a new title.
One of the greatest offensive coaches in the NBA, D’Antoni was expected to create the best offense in the league. Kobe running the show, Nash already knew his system, and Dwight Howard was a better Stoudemire. They could play fast with Nash and Dwight, be a nightmare with Kobe in the half-court; the Lakers had the versatility to be a problem for every defense in the NBA.
Unfortunately, Nash spent more time rehabbing than playing. Dwight had back surgery in the offseason and it took him a while to get back into playing shape. When he finally got his legs, Howard suffered a shoulder injury and played through it until the rest of the season. For a player that’s so dependant on his physicality that was too much to overcome, and Howard left the Lakers after being there for only one year. Most people, including Howard, blame injuries for such a bad season. Lakers owner Jeanie Buss has a different point of view.
“I understand why he left because we hired a coach that didn’t respect his game and wasn’t going to put him in a position to succeed.”Jeanie Buss, LA Times
Shots fired, and there are a few things we need to mention for context. At the time, the Lakers were deciding between D’Antoni and Phil Jackson who Jeannie was engaged to. The decision was made by her brother, Jim Buss, who she later fired and removed from any decision making with the Lakers. Lastly, the rejuvenated Rockets, coached by Mike D’Antoni, look like a serious contender in the West and could be the Lakers’ biggest threat next to the Clippers.
Dwight Howard is one of the most mechanical players in the NBA, and for years he insisted on low post touches and wanted to be Hakeem Olajuwon. If he had played the role D’Antoni envisioned, basically be Stoudemire 2.0 he would’ve been the most dominant center in the game. That’s not on D’Antoni, and we know that because it took Dwight seven years to understand it – he’s playing like that this season and it’s working.
It’s understandable that Buss will defend her player and not the coach who’s not coaching one of their main rivals. but there is a smarter way to go around it than blaming one of the best offensive coaches in NBA history, who we now see, was right all along.