Los Angeles Lakers: Mike D’Antoni Shares Blunt Admission About Coaching Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard

The Los Angeles Lakers entered the 2021-22 season with massive expectations. They had a Big Three with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook, and multiple future Hall of Famers around them. However, their dream of winning an NBA championship turned out to be exactly that — a dream.

Many have compared this past season’s team to another LA squad that failed to reach expectations: the 2012-13 Lakers. Mike D’Antoni coached that team for most of the season, and he recently looked back at that year. His comments, though, reinforced what everyone knew.

Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard didn’t like each other.

Mike D’Antoni opened up about the 2012-13 Lakers

Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant on the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012.
Dwight Howard (from left) and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers before a game against the Sacramento Kings on Oct. 21, 2012. | Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

If you need a quick refresher, the 2012-13 Lakers had Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, and Steve Nash. But injuries limited Nash to only 50 games, and the duo of Bryant and Howard never clicked. The team hovered around the bottom of the Western Conference playoff field most of the year before claiming the seventh seed with a 45-37 record.

However, Bryant suffered an injury during one of the last games of the season and missed the playoffs. The San Antonio Spurs beat the Lakers in four games in the first round.

The Bryant-Howard beef was essentially the worst kept secret in the NBA. The two even got into an argument during a game a couple of seasons later when Howard played for the Houston Rockets. The big man has since admitted to having a lack of maturity during those days, but their problems kept them from accomplishing something special.

“Friction? I thought I was gonna get killed,” Mike D’Antoni said on the April 12 episode of The Old Man and the Three podcast when asked about the team’s friction during that season. “… I just couldn’t get them on the same page. They didn’t like each other. It was contentious. We didn’t really have the talent. You want to play Steve, but he wasn’t up to it. Then he wasn’t even there. Kobe was older … still good, still great, unbelievable, but very tough personality. He and Dwight didn’t mesh; just a lot of things. And then tough atmosphere; a lot of things just didn’t work.”

The Lakers could have competed for a title that season, but Bryant and Howard couldn’t figure things out. Their role players were also older. Gasol, Nash, Metta World Peace, Steve Blake, and Antawn Jamison were all at least 32 years old.

Sound familiar?

The Lakers should have learned from their past mistakes

The Lakers had a much different team in 2021-22, but the same issues that plagued them nine years ago hurt them this year. No, it doesn’t sound like LeBron James and Russell Westbrook were at each other’s throats, but LA’s roster was old, and its superstars didn’t click on the floor.

So, what can the Lakers do to fix it?

Luckily for them, their leader (LeBron James) is in better shape health/injury-wise than Kobe Bryant was back then. Kobe was never the same after that season. LA still has a chance to compete for championships with James, but it needs to surround him with the right pieces.

To do that, the front office needs to look at youth and shooting. James’ teams are at their best when he has shooters around him, and the Lakers were in the bottom half of the NBA in three-point attempts, makes, and field-goal percentage this past season. However, it could be difficult to make too many roster moves due to Russell Westbrook’s $47 million player option.

LA repeated its past mistakes this season by signing a bunch of old players that didn’t fit well together. Hopefully, heading into next season, the franchise has learned its lesson.

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