Steve Nash has as much insight as anyone into Dwight Howard's experience as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. So when the time came to explain the nuances of Howard's complicated departure, Nash had an answer: the big man never wanted anything to do with the Purple-and-Gold in the first place.
"Ultimately, I think Dwight wasn't comfortable here and didn't want to be here, and I think if he didn't want to be here, there's no point for anyone in him being here," Nash told ESPN 710 Los Angeles' Mason & Ireland show on Tuesday. "So, we wish him the best and move on."
The Lakers took the chance that their great history, long lineage of Hall-of-Fame centers and a substantial financial advantage would allow them to retain Howard beyond a one-year rental after they acquired him from the Orlando Magic in the summer of 2012.
But a season marred by an early coaching change, systematic and personnel issues and numerous injuries to key players helped to make the Houston Rockets' long-term prospects more attractive to Howard. The Lakers knew they had to compete to woo the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and put on their version of a full-court press in order to keep him, however futile that attempt was.
A hard sell
As a member of the Lakers' task force that went in to give one last-ditch effort to keep Howard in Southern California, Nash knew they were doomed from the start.
"Frankly, I thought before the meeting, we didn't really have a chance," he said. "And I'd like to think that after the meeting we had a chance."
That brings up an intriguing question: Did the Lakers feel the same way Nash did as the season wore on and went as poorly as it could have? Clearly, they were banking on the fact that Howard would see those several months as an anomaly and recognize that what the Lakers had to offer as one of the most prestigious organizations in professional sports was ultimately a better option than he might find elsewhere.
In Howard's mind (though no one on Earth can ever fully grasp what's going on inside of it), Houston presented a better opportunity to win immediately. He was willing to take less money to go there, which is fully within his rights and logical considering the circumstances.
James Harden and Chandler Parsons made the trip to LA to personally recruit Howard, and the ability to play with a younger, more athletic team with plenty of upside outweighed the lure of bringing a storied franchise like the Lakers back to prominence as its living legend's heir apparent.
It's a classic case of opposing viewpoints. To Lakers' stakeholders, Howard's decision was short-sighted. He could have had it all and picked up right where Kobe Bryant left off. At the same time, Houston fans laud him for making the right basketball decision and ignoring the dollar signs.
Nash is well aware of all the above factors, but he also shed light on how play-calling contributed to Howard's unhappiness.
"He didn't seem like he really wanted to do a pick-and-roll offense, maybe because he had run one in Orlando for so long and he wanted to get in the post more," Nash said during his radio interview.
That was the most baffling aspect of what went wrong.
For all the good that Howard does on the defensive end of the floor and offensive and defensive glass, his offensive game has lacked the refinement of a traditional, back-to-the-basket center. Ironically, Nash is one of the greatest to ever run the pick-and-roll, and many onlookers saw the marriage of Nash and Howard as the gateway to pick-and-roll heaven. Howard, with his athleticism and ability to find the ball in traffic and finish at the rim coupled with Nash's ability to put said ball almost directly into his hands on a rope was going to be wonderful.
Except it wasn't -- not by any stretch.
The absence of a training camp and little time on the floor to develop any feel for one another hurt last year's Lakers a great deal, which Nash also pointed out. It led to their early playoff exit and the departure of the man who was handed the keys to city, almost literally.
"This league's too good to go out there with too much of a deficit, and when we're trying to find out that commonality and chemistry," Nash said. " I think that was a big factor that you have to preface all conversations with.That leads to whatever difficulties Dwight might have had to assimilating."
Who's to blame?
Every situation as complex as the Howard-Lakers debacle needs a scapegoat, and Nash brought up an excellent point regarding why Howard bolted when the Lakers had so much to offer him. Though he wouldn't go into specifics as to what went on behind closed doors of the infamous meeting between Lakers brass and Team Howard, Nash speculated that the unconditional love the city, its fans and media weren't willing to give after an ugly season was in all likelihood the final straw.
"I've heard he said to the media that he never quite felt embraced in LA, he never quite felt maybe supported," he said. "Really just never quite felt comfortable at home, and I don't know that that's anybody's fault."
And that's the biggest mystery. Two sides, two broken hearts on the mend and nothing to show for it. Howard and the Lakers can now both move on, both with futures worth looking forward to.
The Lakers will always have their built-in aspects of greatness -- the nation's second-largest media market, the aura of Hollywood, fantastic location and an enviable franchise.
Howard's biggest dangling carrot? The Houston Rockets aren't the Los Angeles Lakers.