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Ball Don't Lie

Mike D’Antoni cannot fathom why Dwight Howard would leave ‘a place like L.A.’

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Dwight Howard and Mike D'Antoni talk at, and not with, each other (Getty Images)

I will fully admit to owning an ignorant, pithy aversion to Los Angeles that was in place years before I properly visited the city. Armed with a mind full of dismissive Steely Dan lyrics, the idea that nobody from Los Angeles is actually from Los Angeles, and the decades-long stereotype of the perpetually vapid and impermanent culture in the city, I wanted nothing to do with the place.

Then you visit it. And you drive up and down the Pacific Coast Highway a few dozen times in one day, and you take in the 72 and sunny, and you take in the significant culture (however segregated) that is to be experienced by just a late afternoon off between NBA Finals games. Things, in ways that go much farther than just crediting Silverlake for influencing things, really have made Los Angeles a far different situation to behold over the last half-decade. Los Angeles truly is a wonderful place to be.

This is probably why Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni is borderline beside himself at why Dwight Howard – armed with the chance to spend the next five years making nine figures’ worth of millions of dollars in L.A. – chose to sign for less initial money with the Houston Rockets instead. He said as much on an El Lay radio show on Tuesday:

"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 ESPN LA 710 radio 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 said. "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. That might be the case and he had to make that decision.”

Yes, he did. And without denigrating Houston or pumping Los Angeles up too much, Dwight Howard made the right decision.

It has nothing to do with what’s “in his DNA.” That’s a pissy reaction to a player – for once in his deservedly much-beleaguered NBA career – that finally stood up and made the right basketball decision. Howard’s time in this league has been marked by his inability to own up to his whims and say what he truly means, right down to tolerating the ridiculous Laker culture during 2012-13, or pretending to be a fan of everything every member of the Orlando Magic organization did between 2009 and April of 2012. His embarrassing work was transparently duplicitous, and both fans and media alike were correct in pouncing on Howard when he spoke out of both sides of his mouth.

Dwight Howard also just left a team that will feature a player in Kobe Bryant that is coming off of what has proven to be a career-altering surgery, a point guard in Steve Nash that will turn 40 during 2013-14 and still “can’t quite sprint” midway through the offseason, and a post player in Pau Gasol that was left helplessly out of place with Howard down low.

All while D’Antoni flailed about, attempting to turn Gasol into Channing Frye, and playing Kobe Bryant so many minutes that his wheels – over 54,000 combined regular and postseason minutes into his career – gave out.

And now D’Antoni is sucking up to the locals, while pointing out something in Howard’s “DNA” that supposedly leads to this wanderlust. Come on.

Dwight Howard is the guy that was too meek to decline to pick up his player option for the 2012-13 season, signing off on his early-termination option in a sad press conference that everyone saw right through. His debut with Houston will mark his third team in a decade of work, without so much as (and we’re not criticizing Kobe here) the sort of free agent visits (2004) or on-record trade demands (2007) that marked Kobe Bryant’s middling years with struggling Lakers squads.

Only Dwight knows,” Mike D’Antoni? No, everyone knows. The Lakers are old, and Houston is young. The Lakers had more money, more acclaim, nicer beaches and longer guarantees for a player coming off of major back surgery.

The Houston Rockets had actual basketball reasons. If that’s Dwight Howard’s “DNA,” then sign me up for a bit of that.

The Los Angeles Lakers have quite a bit of work to do in order to recover from the tailspin they’ve signed up for since downing the Boston Celtics in Game 7 back in 2010. Acting petulant, and blaming others for not wanting to be a part of that spiral, is not going help in this recovery in the slightest.

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