Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni has been fairly open about the Dwight Howard experiment in Los Angeles. He called Dwight's decision to leave "mind boggling" as he feels the Lakers run very similar offensive sets as the Rockets, and said he believes Howard never fully accepted his role in D'Antoni's system.
There was talk last season about the Lakers possibly shipping out Pau Gasol to make more room down low for D12 to operate, but with Dwight's departure, the middle belongs to Gasol. Owning an overall skillset that's more tailored to Mike D'Antoni's offense, the coach believes Pau will thrive this year.
Question: How much of (praising Gasol) is propping him up, giving him that encouragement, and how much do you really believe this team is better with Pau than it would have been with Dwight?
Answer: I think those are two different points. When you say he’s one of the best skilled big men in the league, that’s not propping him up. That’s the truth. If the franchise had made a decision last year to kind of go another direction because of youth then you had to play around that. That was the direction it was going. But if you tell me right now who’d you rather post up, you want to post up Pau or you want to post up Dwight Howard and give him the ball? No (question). [Indicating Gasol] But if you want to re-sign somebody, who do you want? That’s where the problem was. It was clear who was the best post man. It’s nothing against Dwight. That’s the reality.
Q: But is this team better off if it had Dwight now or with Pau there?
A: We’ll see, We’ll see. I don’t want to go out that far because obviously there’s an answer and I don’t want to offend anybody. I love Pau’s game. I think Pau’s won two championships and I think Pau’s been very instrumental. Like Lamar Odom at the four and Pau at the five, and now you’re back there. It kind of speaks for itself.
It should be noted that D'Antoni doesn't believe the Lakers are better off without Dwight, as he brings a tremendous defensive presence, and draws a lot of attention on offense. Basically, the coach is just saying that Pau is more skilled downlow, and is a better option to run a fluid offense through, but still believes the team could have benefited by keeping Howard.
Q: Do you feel this team is better with this team than if Dwight had been here?
A: I think if Dwight were here it would have made us better. Yeah, I think it would. Yeah. He impacts the game, there’s no doubt about it.