Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni admitted he was “very guilty” of not coaching Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard well.
Mike D’Antoni, former coach of the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks, has been quoted as saying that he had to “coach Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard.”
The Los Angeles Lakers had high hopes for the 2021-22 season. They boasted a Big Three in LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook, as well as a slew of future Hall of Famers. Their hope of winning an NBA title, however, proved to be just that – a dream.
Many have likened this season’s club to the 2012-13 Lakers, another LA team that fell short of expectations. Mike D’Antoni coached the club for the most of the season and recently reflected on it. His remarks, on the other hand, just confirmed what everyone already knew.
Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant didn’t get along.
Mike D’Antoni spoke about the Lakers’ 2012-13 season.
The Los Angeles Lakers’ Dwight Howard (left) and Kobe Bryant (right) before a game against the Sacramento Kings on Oct. 21, 2012. | Getty Images/Stephen Dunn
The 2012-13 Lakers had Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, and Steve Nash, to name a few. Nash was restricted to just 50 games due to injury, and the Bryant-Howard tandem never gelled. The squad spent the most of the season around the bottom of the Western Conference playoff bracket until securing the seventh spot with a 45-37 record.
Bryant, on the other hand, was injured in one of the last games of the season and therefore missed the playoffs. In the first round, the Spurs defeated the Lakers in four games.
The Bryant-Howard feud was perhaps the NBA’s worst kept secret. When Howard was with the Houston Rockets a few seasons later, the two got into a confrontation during a game. The big guy has subsequently acknowledged to a lack of maturity back then, but their issues prevented them from doing anything noteworthy.
“Friction? When questioned about the team’s tension during that season, Mike D’Antoni noted on the April 12 edition of The Old Man and the Three podcast, “I felt I was going to be murdered.” “… I couldn’t seem to get them on the same page.” They didn’t get along well. It was a divisive issue. We lacked the necessary skills. You’d want to play Steve, but he’s not up to the task. He wasn’t even present at that point. Kobe was an elderly man… Absolutely excellent, still incredible, but with a very harsh attitude. He and Dwight didn’t get along for a variety of reasons. Then there was the tense environment; a lot of things didn’t work.”
The Lakers had a chance to win the championship that season if Bryant and Howard had been able to straighten things out. Their supporting cast was likewise elderly. Gasol, Nash, Metta World Peace, Steve Blake, and Antawn Jamison were all at least 32 years old at the time of the incident.
Does this ring a bell?
The Lakers should’ve learnt from their blunders in the past.
The Lakers were a vastly different club in 2021-22, but the same problems that plagued them nine years before afflicted them again this season. No, it doesn’t seem like LeBron James and Russell Westbrook were at odds, but LA’s roster was stale, and its stars didn’t gel on the court.
So, what can the Lakers do to make things better?
Fortunately for them, their captain (LeBron James) is in better health and injury form than Kobe Bryant was at the time. After that season, Kobe was never the same. With James, LA still has a potential to win championships, but it must surround him with the proper pieces.
In order to achieve so, the front office must consider youth and shooting. The Lakers were in the lowest half of the NBA in three-point attempts, makes, and field-goal percentage this season, and James’ teams are at their best when he has shooters surrounding him. Due to Russell Westbrook’s $47 million player option, it may be tough to make too many personnel changes.
This season, LA replicated its previous blunders by adding a slew of elderly veterans that didn’t mesh well together. Hopefully, the franchise will have learnt its lesson before next season.
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