Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss spoke about Dwight Howard’s first stint with her team during the 2012-13 season Monday night at Staples Center.
“I understand why he left because we hired a coach that didn’t respect his game and wasn’t going to put him in a position to succeed,” Buss said, referring to current Houston Rockets Coach Mike D’Antoni. “A player, when they become a free agent, has every right to go where they will feel the most productive. But what was important is we never burned the bridge.”
Howard was asked Tuesday night about Buss’s comments.
“Well, thank you, Jeanie, for always taking up for me,” he said. “I appreciate it. But that happened in 2013 and I’d rather just leave it there and focus on what we’re doing this year. We’re the best team in the NBA. We have an opportunity to win a championship this year. So, I don’t want to dig up anything from the past.”
Howard was a heralded signing for the Lakers back then, but the team never got the best version of Howard. He was hampered by injuries and clashed with what D’Antoni wanted from him. Still, they felt confident he would be an important piece for their future and courted him in free agency. Instead Howard left to play for the Rockets.
He became a journeyman over the next few years but returned to the Lakers this season in hopes of writing a new ending to his story in Los Angeles. He wanted to show Kobe Bryant that he understood him better and show everyone in the organization he deserved their faith, so he signed a non-guaranteed deal.
Throughout the season he has been reluctant to speak too much about the past.
That didn’t change after Buss’s comments.
“It didn’t work out the way we all wanted it to,” Howard said about his first stint with the Lakers. “I love Coach D’Antoni. The system he had, he thought that was going to work for us. So we bought into it.
“It just didn’t happen the way it was supposed to happen but now we got all the right pieces. We got some really good role players. We got some good guys who can put the ball in the basket. Great coaching staff. So we got everything we need to win it.”