Los Angeles Lakers executive vice president Jeanie Buss thinks there is one person who could have convinced Dwight Howard to re-sign with the team this summer.
In an interview with ESPNLA 710 on Thursday morning, via ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, Buss said that the late Dr. Jerry Buss—who wasn't able to attend any games during the 2012-13 season because of health concerns and passed away in February of this year—would have been able to woo the superstar free agent: "They would've probably had a better relationship if my dad hadn't been sick. When it came time to try to convince Dwight to stay, we lost the best closer in the business in Dr. Buss."
The point is obviously moot. After a summer that featured multiple teams pitching Howard like desperate used-car salesmen, the polarizing center decided to sign with Daryl Morey and the Houston Rockets.
There's nothing anyone can do about that now. Still, Jeanie Buss raises a compelling point. The passing of her historic father was, in a way, a signal of the franchise's impending rebuild. The team was no longer able to bank on Buss' clout or the franchise's immense history. Instead, it had to put up silly billboards pleading Howard to stay.
As Jeanie put it during the interview, "The Laker way isn't the same, because Dr. Buss isn't here."
Would Dr. Buss have been able to persuade Dwight to stay?
It certainly would have been a difficult task. Howard averaged 17.1 points and 12.4 rebounds per contest during his only season with the Lake Show, but he was often criticized and never really looked comfortable in Los Angeles.
After a tumultuous year, it seemed his departure was inevitable.
Things clearly would have been different with Dr. Buss around, but we will never truly know if he would have had enough influence to change Howard's mind.
What we do know, however, is that times in Los Angeles have clearly changed, and the Lakers organization is going to have to find itself a new "closer," as Jeanie Buss put it.