Mike D’Antoni Says Dwight Howard Refused to Accept His Role

by July 17, 2013

It’s no secret that Dwight Howard wasn’t a big fan of Mike D’Antoni’s coaching style. Hell, he flat-out asked the Los Angeles Lakers to hire Phil Jackson. Once he bolted, Howard also talked about how excited he was to play for and learn post moves from Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale. D’Antoni views things differently, as one might expect, and says Dwight simply refused to accept his role on the Lakers during his one disastrous season in Hollywood. Per the LA Daily News: “It was a tough situation and it was just really hard for him to put his mark on the team.’ In other words, it was nothing like D’Antoni envisioned when he accepted the Lakers offer. ‘It’s such a great job that you only look at the positives,’ D’Antoni said. So when he hobbled to Los Angeles from New York shortly after undergoing knee surgery eight months ago he thought he was taking over a championship-caliber team that featured Kobe Bryant, the greatest player of his generation, and the endless possibilities of Nash and Howard on the pick and roll. ‘Steve Nash and Dwight Howard on the pick and roll, and that’s what I do?’ D’Antoni remembers, wistfully. ‘I just thought, ‘Boy, that’s gonna be a staple.’ Instead he ran smack into a hornet’s nest. Howard never was completely healthy and refused to buy into his role. He fancied himself as a dominating low-post force the offense should run through. ‘There was just a lot of conflict, emotionally,’ D’Antoni said. ‘People were not settled in their roles. But it’s funny because a lot of times players will say ‘I don’t know my role.’ It’s not that you don’t know it, you just don’t accept it.’ Howard never accepted his, although appeasing him as a prominent low-post option also wasn’t practical because he simply wasn’t healthy enough to carry that load. ‘The only thing that cracks me up is (the question) ‘Why didn’t you go through him more?’ D’Antoni said. ‘Well, he was hurt. Why would we go through him if he’s hurt? You have to (factor) that in. Why would we do that with Kobe and Nash and (Pau) Gasol on the floor? That doesn’t make a lot of sense.’ […] In fact, D’Antoni noticed a bit of irony in Howard choosing Houston, considering the Rockets run an offense every bit as wide open as the one D’Antoni prefers and the one Howard resisted conforming to last year. ‘The thing that cracks me up is Houston, they do the exact same thing,’ D’Antoni said, laughing. ‘And so (Howard) is gonna go to Houston? OK, so did they talk about change there? Don’t tell me that it’s that different.’ D’Antoni wishes Howard well, but does think he needs to accept what makes him a special player rather than envision himself as something he isn’t yet and may never be. ‘He’s a force and he can be really, really good and dominate the league,’ D’Antoni said. ‘But it’s in an area that he’s not loving right now. He wants to dominate a different way, in the low post and all that. But he needs to get better there, and he will. But his greatness is in defense and being a physical force. I think he’d be better served if he embraces that. But he’s good.'”