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Buss: Howard 'never really a Laker'

The SportsXchange

Los Angeles Lakers co-owner Jim Buss told the Hollywood Reporter that former center Dwight Howard never fit in with the team.

The Lakers attempted to re-sign Howard in July, but he decided to sign a free agent deal with the Houston Rockets instead.

Some in Howard's camp and Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss believe that the Lakers could have re-signed Howard. Jeanie Buss has said that her father, Dr. Jerry Buss, who died in February, would have convinced Howard to stay if he were still alive.

The team put up billboards asking Howard to "Stay." However, that apparently was not enough to sway Howard.

"He was never really a Laker," Jim Buss said. "He was just passing through."

Jim and Jeanie Buss were left in charge of the team when Jerry Buss died. Jim is in charge of basketball operations while Jeanie runs the business side.

Part of the reason Howard may have left was his relationship with coach Mike D'Antoni. Jim Buss hired D'Antoni ahead of Phil Jackson after firing Mike Brown. Jackson coached the Lakers to five championships in the last decade. Buss insists the decision came from his father, who was sick in the hospital at the time.

"(General manager) Mitch (Kupchak) and I interviewed Phil together and then reported back to my dad at the hospital for hours upon hours," he said. "He gave the final hammer; we just enforced it."

It has been speculated that Buss and Jackson do not get along, but Buss denied that.

"I have zero problem with Phil, and Phil has zero problem with me," he said.

Jackson told the Los Angeles Daily News in June that he only has a "casual" relationship with Jim Buss.

Jackson has been in a long-term relationship with Jeanie Buss.

With Howard gone and star Kobe Bryant recovering from an Achilles injury, the future success of the Lakers is cloudy. Indications are that the Lakers are focused on reloading during free agency next year.
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