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The Los Angeles Lakers Must Dump Mike D'Antoni to Keep Dwight Howard

Updated on May 24, 2013
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Losing Kobe Bryant will go down as the biggest reason why the Los Angeles Lakers failed to make any noise in the NBA playoffs. There is a lot of truth to that statement, however it isn't the only big reason why the longtime basketball power has looked more vulnerable than ever. That blame is reserved for the inability of head coach Mike D'Antoni to mesh with center Dwight Howard.

International and Phoenix Suns success underscores how D'Antoni fit

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To say D'Antoni is a bad basketball coach is all wrong. His proven history of success speaks for itself. He coached teams to championships in the Italian, European and Korean leagues. On top of that he led the Phoenix Suns to the playoffs four times in six seasons, making two-straight appearances in the Western Conference Finals. In that time he won Coach of the Year and turned Steve Nash into a two-time MVP. So when the Lakers brought Nash in via free agency and former coach Mike Brown was fired, D'Antoni seemed like a natural fit.

The problem was things were not running smoothly when he came aboard. Nash and Howard were both coming back from injuries. This in turn forced D'Antoni to lean on the 35-year old Bryant, who played the most minutes for a season ever in his long career. Experts believe it was this wear and tear on his body that led to his torn Achilles injury. However, the Lakers still made the playoffs and on paper had enough talent left to make some noise. By that point Howard and Nash were healthy. Yet L.A. continued to struggle and never put up much of a fight in their first round exit against the San Antonio Spurs.

So was D'Antoni that bad? Not at all. The Lakers started their season 17-25 before he took over. After that they went 28-12 and qualified for the playoffs. Where things went wrong was from the very beginning. Los Angeles made a lot of off-season moves to make sure Howard came in from the Orlando Magic. His greatest success came under former coach Stan Van Gundy who brought a disciplined, half court approach that featured Howard in the paint and a bevy of outside shooters to use when teams focused on him. D'Antoni on the other hand runs a system built around high octane, open court basketball. He believes in getting the ball down the court quickly and scoring. That style doesn't work on a player like Howard, who is known more for his physical strength than his speed or endurance. Though the Lakers were still driven through Bryant, their failure was not doing better research in finding a head coach who would use Howard properly.

The Houston Rockets

Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons and James Harden
Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons and James Harden | Source

Now things are about to go from bad to worse for L.A. Not only is next season uncertain for Bryant or Nash, word has come out that Howard may have interest in leaving. He is a free agent in 2013. After such a tough season with the Lakers and his struggles under D'Antoni he feels his best option is to find a team and a coach who will cater to his strengths. Clearly it didn't take long to research. The team he listed at the top of ones he might consider was the Houston Rockets.

On paper it makes complete sense. With James Harden and Jeremy Lin in the back court, the offensive capabilities of the Rockets are already in place. Where they struggled a lot at times last season was on defense and in the front court. Their center Omer Asik played well but could not hold down the paint alone. Inserting Howard next to him would give Houston a pair of twin towers known for their suffocating defense, making any hope of inside scoring impossible. Add in head coach Kevin McHale who was a Hall of Fame front court player and there is no doubt he will know how to use Howard.

NBA Off-Season

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The task ahead may not seem clear for the Lakers but it is if their plans still involve handing the reigns to Howard. The All-Star center said his inability to fit D'Antoni's system was a big reason why he was considering a move somewhere else. There won't be any bigger hints. Los Angeles should thank D'Antoni for turning their season around, give him a nice bonus and politely send him on his way.

The problem is they banked a lot on Howard being their guy for the future. They have no first round pick for the 2013 NBA draft and won't have lots of cap space to make any big counter moves in free agency. For better or worse their best hope for next season rests on convincing Howard to return. To do that they must admit their mistake and send D'Antoni packing. Then they better hope Bryant can come back healthy for one more run.

Who should the Lakers get if they do fire Mike D'Antoni?

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    • Paul Edmondson profile image

      Paul Edmondson 4 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      I'm not sold on Mike as a coach but that's mainly the way I see him communicate through the press. To know what kind of coach someone is, you have to see more than how they manage games.

      I bet the Lakers sign Howard, but I liked the rumor of his having interest in the warriors as well.

    • EJ Lambert profile image
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      EJ Lambert 4 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Like anything else it's all about fits. D'Antoni doesn't fit the roster or the personality of Los Angeles. Phoenix fit him because they had a roster that was better suited to a wide open attack.

      The Lakers have to re-sign Howard if they want to keep competing. It would be a major coup if the Warriors got him. They need a bigger presence in the paint.

    • Mike Robbers profile image

      Mike Robbers 4 years ago from London

      It seems it is either Howard or D' Antoni for the Lakers. However it would be really intriguing to see Howard going to Houston or Golden State. It would certainly change western division's balance in the years to come and as Lakers and Spurs will be entering a rebuilding period, I think Howard would have a chance to western finals and perhaps the title.

    • EJ Lambert profile image
      Author

      EJ Lambert 4 years ago from Chicago, IL

      I think Houston is a perfect fit for him. They have a long history of great centers, James Harden at guard and Chandler Parsons in the front court with Omer Asik already at center. You put that group together with a spark plug like Jeremy Lin and you have a very diverse and formidable group. That is what L.A. needs to avoid.

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