Lakers Rumors: Dwight Howard's Demands Paint Picture of Ugly Team Dynamic
Factor in injuries, a coaching change and losses that continued to mount during the 2012-13 season, and it's amazing that the Los Angeles Lakers finished Mike D'Antoni's first campaign without internally combusting.
The latest from NBA insider Ric Bucher paints a picture that Lakers fans everywhere will want to erase before the new season begins.
According to Bucher, Howard reportedly had a list of two demands he passed along to general manager Mitch Kupchak, the Buss family and the rest of the front office that needed to be executed to ensure he would re-sign with the franchise.
One: Please fire D'Antoni.
Two: Please amnesty—or at the very least "muzzle"—Bryant.
When making these requests, Howard either had to already know he was going to eventually sign with the Houston Rockets and was just pushing the limit for his own personal amusement, or really thought he would come out on the winning end of a rift with a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer who has played his entire career with the Lakers.
It was likely a little bit of both. Toeing both sides of that line, it's still abundantly clear that the brief D12-Black Mamba experiment was not amicable for either party.
It should also be clear that the L.A. locker room was never as easy going as they wanted us to believe. In true cover-up fashion, I suspect any and all Bryant-Howard exchanges in the underbelly of the Staples Center were as awkward as a sixth-grade dance.
If you look at all the evidence, it's really no surprise that Bryant and Howard were destined for animosity ahead of NBA championships.
For starters, neither have likely ever been anything but the No. 1 player on any team—something that dates back to the age when both men were fighting for attention at those aforementioned first dances.
Bryant, who is downright nasty on the court and demands 150 percent from himself and others at all times, is more of a totalitarian leader and unquestioned No. 1 option on the offensive end of the court. Kobe has no problem voicing his opinion and his credentials (five NBA Finals rings) speak for themselves.
After all, it was Shaquille O'Neal who eventually left L.A., and not the other way around.
By comparison, Howard is more of a jovial leader who likes to keep things loose and light on the court. A "free spirit," if you will, D12 had no problem flashing his million-dollar smile on the court in Orlando and even led his team to the NBA Finals back in 2009.
The Lakers, fully aware of the contrasting styles, tried to give Howard the creativity and acceptance he needed to thrive in L.A. Heck, the team played a prank on its new star center during one of his first home games with the franchise.
Needless to say, it wasn't enough to make light of some serious chemistry issues that Bryant and Howard had over the course of L.A.'s courtship of the 7-footer.
Dating back to the All-Star break during the 2011-12 season, Howard and Bryant haven't been in the news for anything positive. A rumor claiming Bryant told Howard he would be a great third option in L.A.—a la "Tyson Chandler"—started circulating as league teams began dispersing back to their cities post-All-Star break.
Howard was traded to Los Angeles, though, last summer, expected to bring his defensive prowess and flat-out unguardable size to the franchise in pursuit of Kobe's sixth ring and the franchise's 17th total championship.
The Lakers wound up being lucky to make the playoffs.
In the midst of a coaching change, Steve Nash injuries and poor on-court chemistry from all angles, whispers of player discomfort once again started creeping in.
Mike Bresnahan of The Los Angeles Times reported in January that Bryant and Howard were the subject of a heated, "clear-the-air" team meeting after starting the year 17-24. Bryant reportedly asked Howard directly if he had a problem playing with the franchise legend.
The answer was unclear.
So was Howard's future.
In retrospect, a photo that Bryant tweeted out to refute the locker room confrontation actually looks quite accurate when you start piecing together all the evidence. In fact, it's downright "LOL" material.
Howard, Bryant and the rest of the most-recent Lakers roster likely never came to blows, but the tension built up in that room slowly started to boil over when it became painfully clear that Howard's wine-and-dine mantra this summer put the Lakers in the same boat with his other suitors, despite the fact that he stood to make more money and have more security by remaining with the Lakers.
There's even been controversy since Howard packed his bags and moved to H-town.
Bryant deleted Howard from the people he follows on Twitter, claiming that he doesn't follow users who want to beat his team on a regular basis. Returning serve, the latest reducing Bryant's competitive nature to that of a dog (muzzle) isn't a slight Bryant will take lightly.
Family members can't even agree if they made the right decision between Howard and Bryant. Jim Buss said Howard was "never really a Laker" in a recent interview, whereas Jeanie Buss told The Hollywood Reporter that she feels responsible for Howard's eventual exit.
"I feel like we failed him," Buss told Bucher.
With Dwight gone, year two of D'Antoni expected to showcase offensive improvement and Bryant refocused on coming back healthier and stronger, things are looking up for the Lakers.
L.A.'s 2012-13 season was a disaster. Howard and Bryant were in the middle of that dysfunction, but it will never pass for an excuse for why the paper-champion Lakers were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs.
It will, however, serve as a litmus test for those who have seen its wrath take shape.
Some things just aren't meant to be. D12 in Los Angeles was one of those things.
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