The Lakers, almost from the moment Howard arrived in August 2012, had gone to great lengths to assure the 27-year-old that they saw him as the future face of the franchise and that the torch would be passed from Bryant to him in short order.
But with Bryant saying publicly just a week before free agency that he was thinking of playing at least two or three more seasons, it was hard for Howard to envision when he would assume that role, sources said.
The ESPN report goes on to state that Howard's representatives brought up the possibility of cutting ties with Kobe Bryant in the offseason, saying "Howard's camp at one point asked the Lakers whether they were at least considering releasing Bryant through the league's amnesty provision."
Howard had envisioned a potential partnership with Chris Paul over the summer, but the cash-strapped Lakers couldn't make that happen without some clever manipulation of their financial books.
Those possible moves were either stymied by potential trade partners or overruled by the Lakers themselves:
Amnestying Bryant and shopping Pau Gasol and Steve Nash to teams with salary-cap space would have allowed the Lakers to try to recruit Paul in free agency. But the Lakers, sources said, made it clear the prospect of releasing Bryant via amnesty or simply trying to lay out a finite timetable on the end of his career with the franchise was not under consideration, believing those decisions should and would be made by Bryant.
The possibility of the Lakers shedding Bryant's $30 million-plus salary through the amnesty clause was talked about in the rumor mill shortly after his season came to an abrupt end due to a torn Achilles but never seemed to carry much weight in L.A.'s camp.
Howard tried barking up that tree, and in doing so, he helped fuel his exit:
Dwight Howard wanted to amnesty Kobe. Wasn't happening. So now he's a Rocket.— chris palmer (@ESPNChrisPalmer) July 11, 2013
Amnestying Bryant would have not only helped make a Paul acquisition economically feasible, but it would have also sped up the baton swap that Howard craved.
The Lakers saved face (and their five-time champion), while Howard was left trying to convince the hoops world that his decision to leave was solely basketball-driven.
When it comes to Howard's divorces, though, there always seem to be more underlying motives that don't first meet the eye.
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