The Los Angeles Lakers have several factors in their favor as they attempt to re-sign Dwight Howard this offseason. The team’s head coach, however, may be a deterrent in getting the All-Star to stay in L.A.
According to Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com, Howard recently expressed his frustrations about Mike D’Antoni to general manager Mitch Kupchak. The report states that Howard had an extended meeting with just Kupchack after his exit interview with both the GM and head coach. Sources say Howard expressed his frustration regarding D’Antoni, most notably how the coach largely ignored the big man in favor of Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash.
The news may not be all that surprising. Howard has been blamed for getting Stan Van Gundy fired from the Orlando Magic. Now, there’s a chance that he will look to sign elsewhere, in part because of his issues with D’Antoni.
Throughout the regular season, there were rumors that Howard had problems with D’Antoni. Assistant coaches like Chuck Person and Steve Clifford acted as “buffers” between the two. Person, though, won’t return with the Lakers in 2013-2014, and Clifford may get a job as a head coach with either the Milwaukee Bucks of Charlotte Bobcats.
Despite his apparent issues with D’Antoni, the Lakers remain the favorites to sign Howard. They can offer him a maximum contract worth $118 million over five years. In free agency, the most Howard can get from teams under the salary cap threshold is $87.6 million over four seasons.
Still, Howard is, reportedly, attracted to teams outside of Los Angeles. The Houston Rockets may have the best chance of landing the big man in free agency. The 27-year-old is intrigued about being a part of the Rockets young, talented roster. In his first season with Houston, James Harden proved himself to be among the best players in the NBA. He led the club to the same regular season record as the Lakers, one that would likely improve if it could add Howard to the lineup.
Houston isn’t the only playoff team that will have the flexibility to give Howard a lucrative contract. The Atlanta Hawks might be able to offer two players maximum salary contracts in the offseason. The Dallas Mavericks and Cleveland Cavaliers are also expected to be in contention to sign Howard. Free agency officially begins on July 1.
The Lakers have made it clear that they won’t get rid of D’Antoni if Howard indicates that’s the only way he’ll come back to Los Angeles. The center has had his problems with the head coach, but the situation doesn’t appear to be as dire as it was when Howard was in Orlando.
However, after a disappointing season with the Lakers, the organization does have legitimate competition in their attempt to sign Howard. When L.A. made the trade to acquire Howard in 2012, it appeared that the Lakers found the player that would replace Bryant as the face of the franchise. Now, it could prove to be a failed, one-year experiment.