The Los Angeles Lakers were missing the most important element during their failed recruitment of free agent center Dwight Howard — their late, great owner Jerry Buss. His daughter and Lakers executive VP, Jeanie, says things would have turned out differently had Dr. Buss been around. Per ESPN: “The ‘Stay D12′ billboards around town didn’t work. Neither did anything anyone said in the Lakers’ pitch meeting to Howard in early July. Howard’s mind seemed mostly made up by then. But Lakers executive vice president Jeanie Buss thinks one person had a chance — her father, the late Dr. Jerry Buss. ‘They would’ve probably had a better relationship if my dad hadn’t been sick,’ Jeanie Buss said Thursday. ‘When it came time to try to convince Dwight to stay, we lost the best closer in the business in Dr. Buss. Putting up the billboard maybe wasn’t the right thing. But we maybe have to learn to do things differently because Dr. Buss isn’t here anymore. People said [of the billboards], ‘Oh, that’s not the Laker way.’ Well, the Laker way isn’t the same, because Dr. Buss isn’t here.’ Buss said that she developed her own relationship with Howard during his lone season with the team and was very disappointed he chose to leave the organization. She told a story of meeting him last August, soon after he was traded from Orlando, where he was genuinely surprised the 16 championship trophies that are in her office were in fact real. Buss laughed and said, ‘Of course they’re real.’ Howard explained that during the 2009 NBA Finals, then-Magic coach Stan Van Gundy caught him staring up at the trophies during a practice and told him, ”Those aren’t real. Those are just props. Don’t pay attention to those, they’re not real.’ And so that’s why he thought Buss’ weren’t real. Buss, who’d developed and maintained a close relationship with Howard during the season he was here, said she’s still disappointed he chose to leave. ‘I’ve had a few people say, ‘You guys are better off without him.’ But do you know who those people are? People from other NBA teams, because they don’t want us to have that kind of talent,’ Buss said. ‘I myself believed that you always want to hold on to talent. I was disappointed that Dwight chose to leave. Certainly he was well within his rights, with free agency. I just don’t agree with his decision.’”