Any decision by an NBA superstar to change area codes will rock the league, especially the team that superstar leaves in the dust. Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert shot bitter remarks at LeBron James when he left Cleveland for the Miami Heat three years back, and Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni continues to point little barbs Dwight Howard's way after the center signed with the Houston Rockets this summer.
In an interview with ESPN LA 710, D'Antoni said he didn't understand Howard's decision to leave Los Angeles.
"It's hard for me to sit here and criticize or even to understand why he left a place like L.A.," D'Antoni told "ESPN L.A. Now" hosts Mark Willard and Mychal Thompson on Tuesday. "That's kind of mind-boggling a little bit, but that's in his DNA and what he wants to do."
"Everybody has got to make that decision," D'Antoni added. "You can debate it all you want. Only Dwight knows. Obviously he didn't think he would be as happy here as he will be in Houston."
For all the talk about D'Antoni's system failing to utilize Howard, the Lakers coach made it a point to note Houston's own offense is similarly predicated upon spacing that the Lakers' roster just didn't have last year. He previously told the Los Angeles Daily News it was funny to think about how similar the Rockets' offense is to those D'Antoni has directed in the past.
But Howard was never on the D'Antoni bandwagon. ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin reported before the free agency period began that the center wasn't happy with his head coach, who looked more to Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash when it came to team decision-making.
It's fair that D'Antoni receives criticism, of course. The Lakers failed to implement a strong pick-and-roll game between Howard and Nash despite their skillsets, and juggling Pau Gasol and Howard -- when both were healthy -- never came with much success.
But the Lakers, again, didn't have the three-point shooting to space the floor a-la Houston. This year's team that signed free agents like Wesley Johnson and Nick Young might be better suited to do so. It is D'Antoni's first full season, after all.
Showing signs that he's willing to adjust to a new situation, the sometimes stubborn D'Antoni told ESPN LA 710 that he'll expand his usually-shallow rotation to 11 players. Behind newly-hired assistant Kurt Rambis, Los Angeles will also try to fix up a broken defense.
Dwight Howard might be leaving the Lakers, but the pressure on D'Antoni won't let up, either.