Phil Jackson humorously wishes ex-Laker Dwight Howard well as ‘Astro’

Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson, right, says the Lakers will be fine without Dwight Howard.
(Wally Skalij; Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

Phil Jackson became the latest member of the Lakers’ extended family to weigh in on Dwight Howard’s departure.

It wasn’t as rough as Shaquille O’Neal’s assessment, but there was a barb or two, predictably, from the former Lakers coach Sunday.

“He left a distaste in Lakerland,” Jackson said of Howard on Twitter. “The Lakers will be fine.


“What DH brings to the game is power and D. This past year didn’t show due it to rehab and confusion. If he is better [off] an Astro, so be it.”

Calling Howard an “Astro” instead of a Rocket is typical of Jackson’s humor.

PHOTOS: Dwight Howard and the Lakers

Jackson also predicted Pau Gasol would fit better into Coach Mike D’Antoni’s style of offense.

Jackson’s comments weren’t as cutting as O’Neal’s.

The former Lakers center continued his years-long criticism of Howard by saying Howard couldn’t stand the “bright lights” that came with being a key part of the Lakers and was better-suited to go to a “little town” such as Houston.

“That’s right, little town, I said it,” O’Neal added.

Of course, the big question is what Kobe Bryant will say about Howard’s departure. He “unfollowed” Howard on Twitter the day of Howard’s decision, a statement all its own.


The Lakers are slowly trying to build a roster for next season. Emphasis on slowly.

They are intrigued at the chance of getting Lamar Odom back, not just for name recognition but also because the Lakers need some players who would gladly take minimum salaries.

Odom, 33, made $8.2 million last season but might have to take a pay cut to $1.4 million, the veteran’s minimum for a player of his experience. The Lakers could also sign him via their “mini” midlevel exception of $3.2 million.

Odom spent last season with the Clippers, averaging four points and 5.9 rebounds before becoming a free agent last week. The Clippers have turned their attention to veteran Antawn Jamison, whose signing would decrease their need for Odom’s services.

Odom helped the Lakers earn two championships and won the NBA’s sixth man award.

The Lakers currently have eight players under contract for a total of $77 million, including Metta World Peace, who they are leaning against waiving via the one-time amnesty provision.

They don’t want to add any long-term contracts, knowing well their only player under contract for 2014-15 is Steve Nash.

“It’s as wiped-clear of a roster as Miami had in 2010,” said NBA salary cap expert Larry Coon.

Miami was able to get far enough under the cap to sign LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, leading to two championship seasons. The players agreed to take slightly less money to make it happen.

As for Howard’s departure, Coon was “ambivalent” from a financial viewpoint.

“On one hand, he was the centerpiece of their rebuild,” said Coon, who runs, a heavily referenced website within the basketball industry. “On the other hand, you can make the strong argument that his prime was a few years ago and a max salary might not work out so well.”

Howard would have been under contract with the Lakers until the end of the 2017-18 season.

Times correspondent Eric Pincus contributed to this report.