|Buss' Lakers launch, in futility, "Stay D12" campaign to keep him in Los Angeles. After he moves to the Rockets, Buss says "He was never really a Laker." Makes sense|
It's not a shock to any in the NBA community when Dwight Howard's lone season, the 2012-13 campaign, with the Los Angeles Lakers is designated a failure of nearly epic proportions. The team, forecasted in the preseason to win the championship by many pundits, came in lowly 7th place in the Western Conference only to get swept in four games by the San Antonio Spurs in the 1st round of the postseason. Of course, all of this came after LA lost all eight of its preseason games and its first three regular season games, culminating in a very inauspicious start for one of the league's "supposed" elites.
Injuries hampered the squad all year, most notably with point guard Steve Nash missing 32 games and power forward Pau Gasol missing 33, in addition to the hordes of reserves and complementary players who couldn't stay on the court. The chemistry with the Lakers' many stars and butting personalities never really gelled either, as the heavy egos of Kobe Bryant and Howard couldn't possibly mesh. Add on that the Lakers were tied for 5th-worst in the league in committing turnovers (14.6 per game) and had the lowest free throw percentage (69.2%), and you can easily see why the season turned out so poorly for such a promising team.
Now, the coaching situation. Mike Brown, who coached the previous year's Lakers to a respectable 41-25 record, was fired from his post just five games into the 2012-2013 season, after LA started 1-4. Bernie Bickerstaff served as interim for awhile before former Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni finished out the season. Three coaches, one season, zero playoff wins.
When, in a long Hollywood Reporter article written by Ric Bucher, Lakers executive and son of the late Jerry Buss, Jim Buss, refers to Howard as someone who "...was never really a Laker.", it really makes one think about how misappropriated the blame for the Lakers' season has been. As Buss says that Howard "...was just passing through.", it was just a few months ago that his team was openly and publicly begging for their rented center to return to Southern California and re-sign with a team as dysfunctional as any in professional sports (Ok, maybe other than the Jets).
Fault Howard all you want for how he first handled his "Dwightmare" scenario with the (then) New Jersey Nets and the Orlando Magic, for his dramatic and youthful antics with the media, and even for his delayed decision to choose the Rockets. But the disaster that was the 2012-13 Lakers shouldn't rest on his shoulders alone, as there were many, many moving parts that only made the present problem worse, not better. And that's what Jim Buss and company should realize when thoughtfully evaluating this franchise as is.