Jim Buss: Dwight Howard was never really a Laker
Dwight Howard spent very little time with the Los Angeles Lakers before heading off to Houston. Most NBA fans envisioned Howard becoming the face of the Lakers’ franchise after Kobe Bryant retired, but the plan never came to fruition. Team executive vice president Jim Buss does not sound surprised.
Rick Bucher interviewed Buss for a recent profile of the Lakers front office in The Hollywood Reporter, and the son of the late Jerry Buss offered some straight-forward comments about Howard.
Jim insists he’s just following his father’s blueprint, but the Howard situation suggests he missed a page. Instead of Jim spending time with Howard, the team launched a widely derided media campaign that implored ‘Stay’ on billboards. After Howard bolted, Jim turned on his former star, saying he wasn’t surprised or dismayed. ‘He was never really a Laker,’ says Jim. ‘He was just passing through.’
Those close to Howard say the Lakers could have persuaded him to stay. Even Jeanie believes that if her father had not been sick, he would have sealed the deal like so many before it. ‘It’s disappointing that Dwight isn’t here,’ she says. ‘I feel like we failed him.'”
This is not the first time Jeanie has said she felt her father could have kept Howard in LA. At the end of the day, the Lakers should not feel badly about losing Howard. If his heart wasn’t in it, it’s probably best to let him go to another city. That being said, it’s obvious a number of factors could have influenced the situation.
In addition to the passing of Jerry Buss, Howard has essentially admitted that things would have been different if the Lakers hired Phil Jackson instead of Mike D’Antoni. The team may have had more success last season and Howard may have wanted to stay to play for Jackson, especially since he did not get along with D’Antoni during his one season in LA.
Instead, Howard wound up “just passing through.” Whether or not that was a foregone conclusion is a matter of personal opinion.