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Jeanie Buss says she ‘still doesn’t understand’ why Dwight Howard left the Lakers

Mar 20, 2014, 9:02 PM EDT

Los Angeles Lakers Introduce Dwight Howard Getty Images

Jeanie Buss holds the title of president and co-owner with the Lakers, but her duties are 100 percent on the business side and have nothing to do with the team’s basketball operations.

After hearing her latest remarks on Dwight Howard, Lakers fans should be thankful that’s the case.

During an extended radio appearance on ESPN 710 in Los Angeles, Buss was open in answering all kinds of questions about the present state of the team, as well as how some things were handled in its recent past. The topic of Dwight Howard came up, and Buss really seemed to not have a clue as to why anyone would want to leave her beloved Lakers in free agency.

From Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:

“I think the Lakers are a legacy franchise. I think that players know when they come here this is the ultimate platform. I really don’t think a free agent that’s going to come [will] not consider the Lakers. I’m not worried about that in any way, shape or form.”

But Dwight Howard bolted last July to sign a free-agent deal with Houston, taking substantially less money in the process.

“I still don’t understand why he left,” Buss said. “He had his own reasons. People I guess maybe would be talking [angrily] about the billboard. That really seemed to rub people the wrong way. I thought it was a good idea. It obviously didn’t mean anything to him.”

Buss was referring to the “STAY” campaign unveiled by the Lakers last summer around Los Angeles.

If Buss truly doesn’t understand why Howard left, then she should honestly consider another profession.

Just about every Lakers observer you could find understands the many reasons Howard had to want to bolt the Lakers in free agency just as soon as he had the chance. But in case you need it spelled out, here (in no particular order) are a few of the more obvious ones:

Dwight and Kobe are very different dudes. Kobe Bryant is the game’s fiercest competitor, while Howard has been known to want to have fun more than anything else. Howard and Bryant clashed from the start from a personality standpoint, and the prospect of three more years alongside Bryant before the team would truly be turned over to Howard wasn’t something he was willing to endure.

Dwight will never win a championship as a team’s best player. He had that responsibility in Orlando, and the pressure there was too much. Signing up for that role in Los Angeles for a franchise with the history that the Lakers have was of zero interest to Howard. He struggled to deal with the media scrutiny of winning alongside Bryant and Steve Nash; there was no way he was going to try to do that in L.A. all by himself. By joining the Rockets, James Harden would be the one to carry the load offensively and grab most headlines, while Howard could simply be an All-Star on both ends of the floor without having to carry the weight of the franchise and the entire city on his shoulders.

The Lakers were (and remain) a long way from a title. If Howard truly wanted to win now, then leaving the Lakers was the only option. Forgetting about the insane number of injuries L.A. has endured this season and last, the team wasn’t constructed to win a title even if everyone was healthy. With or without Howard in place, it was going to take some front office wizardry to add some additional pieces to make the Lakers ready to compete at a championship level, and Howard likely saw this as one of the more compelling reasons why he should go play somewhere else.

About that billboard campaign — here’s what I wrote about it at the time, and the same is true now. This was simply making sure the Lakers left no stone unturned in their courtship of Howard, so that they couldn’t be blamed for any missteps once he left.

The people in the know in Orlando will tell you that Dwight specifically referenced a lack of public support via billboards as a negative in his list of reasons for leaving Orlando, so the fact that the Lakers are going to these public lengths to impress Howard shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

The notion that the Lakers are too proud of a franchise to beg players to play for them in this way is sheer nonsense. If this is something a player of Dwight’s caliber requires, then the organization is doing nothing more than its due diligence in making sure that every base is covered where Howard is concerned, to the point where if he decides to leave Los Angeles, the decision will be 100 percent his, with no reason to blame the Lakers for any perceived indiscretions.

Again, Jeanie’s responsibility isn’t on the basketball side, and it’s hard to argue that from a business and a marketing perspective that the Lakers aren’t as savvy as any team in the league.

But seriously, we all know why Dwight left the Lakers; the reasons are as numerous as they are obvious.

  1. mackcarrington - Mar 20, 2014 at 9:27 PM

    Considering she doesn’t have anything to do with the basketball side, I don’t know why she puts herself in a position to have to answer questions about the basketball operation. I guarantee that nobody knows who handles the marketing and business of any other team, with the exception of Mark Cuban.

    • stadix093 - Mar 20, 2014 at 9:31 PM

      Well, she is kind of part owner, sooo yeah.

      • mackcarrington - Mar 20, 2014 at 9:39 PM

        She has four other siblings who are also part owners and we never hear from them.
        I heard the interview. She admits she wasn’t part of any player transactions. But she goes on the radio knowing that’s what she is going to be asked about. She handled it as best she could but she would have been better off staying out of the media eye.

    • antistratfordian - Mar 20, 2014 at 10:00 PM

      She knows as much about the basketball side as her brother.

      • mackcarrington - Mar 21, 2014 at 12:26 AM

        So you’re calling her a liar?

      • stadix093 - Mar 21, 2014 at 12:58 AM

        If Lakers fans had a choice, I think a lot of us would have picked her to run the team in the first place. She’s a fan with direct access, I enjoy her input. Having said that, I can also see why Howard left.

    • gandalf47 - Mar 21, 2014 at 12:21 PM

      She is trying to put a positive face on the Lakers for a number of reasons: 1) The Lakers (Jimmy) just let Phil get away – once again,and the fans are restless 2) The Lakers are having one of their worst seasons EVER and the fans are getting restless 3) Kobe is throwing barbs out against Jimmy, and she feels she must defend him out of loyalty to her family 4) She is on the inside and can offer some perspective to the restless fans that want to know that the Lakers will be contending for a championship right away 5) She is the only Buss who will go on the radio or TV for an interview. Jimmy is a pu$$y, and is afraid of the questions he’ll have to answer, and he has no good answers.

      Oh, and the reason that DH did not sign with the Lakers, he, too, is a pu$$y, and a “girly-man”, too. DH wants to be a “big fish in a small pond”, rather than either a big fish in a big pond, or a little fish in a big pond, but in any event, the Lakers are way too much for DH to handle. Good luck in winning championships that way!

  2. dubblelznhell - Mar 20, 2014 at 9:40 PM

    Dwight’s no Shaq…

    • andyprough1 - Mar 20, 2014 at 11:50 PM

      LA’s no NBA-quality team.

      • andyprough1 - Mar 20, 2014 at 11:51 PM

        Or more to the point:

        LA’s no San Antonio.

    • spthegr8 - Mar 21, 2014 at 12:30 PM

      ^^^ You can say that again.^^^

  3. ranfan12 - Mar 20, 2014 at 10:00 PM

    Probably for better chance to advance higher in playoffs. Otherwise, wouldn’t make sense to turn down contract which would’ve possibly left him with kobeless lakers (which would benefit him)

    • gandalf47 - Mar 21, 2014 at 12:24 PM

      Yeah, leaving $30 million on the table before he knew Kobe would get hurt, and the kind of season that they would have this year. Winning sooner was NOT the reason. DH is just not a “big-time” player. He may have talent, and he may be big, but he will never LEAD a team to the NBA Championship. He may get a ring due to someone else’s leadership, but that’s the only way that’s ever gonna happen.

      • tegan3 - Mar 21, 2014 at 3:51 PM

        After taxes, Dwight will probably earn just as much in Texas. Certainly no $30 million dollar difference.

  4. sportsfan18 - Mar 20, 2014 at 10:23 PM

    Dr. Buss will never rest in peace until all his children have passed on…

    Jimmy is causing him to turn over in his grave and now this…

    Lordly, we know the Lakers are messed up, but this takes the cake…

    The Buss children can’t help themselves… it’s who and what they are…

    Laker fans… THESE are YOUR OWNERS…

  5. Professor Fate - Mar 20, 2014 at 10:27 PM

    As a high-profile executive in the NBA, Jeannie was being polite. I have no need to be. The bullet points listed above make Howard look as though he had some kind of epiphany after he got to the Lakers, as though he had been playing on another planet and had absolutely no idea who ran the team or who the franchise player has been for the past two decades.

    “…(T)he prospect of three more years alongside Bryant before the team would truly be turned over to Howard wasn’t something he was willing to endure.

    “Dwight will never win a championship as a team’s best player.”

    The disconnect between these two statements, despite their immediate proximity, speaks volumes about Howard’s outlook and the way apologists defend his decisions. He wouldn’t have been the main man on the Lakers for three years. That would likely have been Bryant, so the attention and pressure wouldn’t have been on Howard. How can you be impatient to be the face of a franchise while not wanting the attention and criticism that comes with that position? The unacknowledged contradiction here is mind-boggling. If you want to be the main man you’re going to have to man-up to everything that comes with it. Howard wanted to eat his cake and have it, too.

    If Howard thinks he can fly under the radar in Houston when the team doesn’t succeed then he is grossly mistaken. He, as well as those in his circle, can delude themselves all they want about demanding superstar deference and money, but without results the media and fan pressure will be unrelenting.

    Howard lied to get out of Orlando, plain and simple. He lied when said being traded to the Lakers was okay with him, he lied at his presser introducing him to the L.A. media and fans when he said he was happy to be a Laker, and he lied when he said re-signing in L.A. was a possibility. At no point in this saga, from the time he was in Orlando until he ended up in Houston, did Howard have any intention whatsoever of remaining on the Lakers. But it was definitely a convenient place to rehab his back and bank $20 million.

    Yes, people who actually think the situation through know exactly why Howard bolted L.A.: Despite more money, he knew he couldn’t handle the pressure of expectations from a team and its fans that are used to competing with the best and winning titles. The expectations on another team wouldn’t be that high, so he used the Lakers to get out of Orlando knowing full well he wasn’t going to stay.

    Criticizing Jeannie for Howard’s hypocrisy and misrepresentations conveniently side-steps the real issue here. And that issue is that Howard has, so far, burned two organizations with his disingenuous methods. Many teams will now think twice about paying big bucks to rent a pending free agent because Howard has effectively poisoned that well. Jeannie might be naive, but Howard is a lying jackass.

  6. wtfruthinkn - Mar 20, 2014 at 10:49 PM

    Dwight left because Jim Buss had no plan. Jim was more concerned with saving face (keeping D’Antoni) and appeasing sponsors (giving Kobe that rediculous extension) than actually building a title contender, which he is totally incapable of doing. His fragile little ego wouldn’t even allow him to bring in Phil Jackson to help out in any capacity. Now the Lakers are about to set the franchise record for losses in a season under his watch and Jeanie will just sit back and watch him hang himself again next year. No love loss there. How loud will Laker fans be screaming if the Rockets and Knicks meet in the 2015 or ’16 finals?

    • zxrated - Mar 21, 2014 at 1:30 AM

      Dwight left because of Kobe, end of story.

    • 1historian - Mar 21, 2014 at 7:13 AM

      Rockets and Knicks in the 2015 or 2016 finals?

      That’s a good one.

      • ranfan12 - Mar 21, 2014 at 3:35 PM

        You never know lol. People thought that they would finally go deeper after winning 65% of their games last season. No one could have expected that. I’d think that was Woodson’s best year

  7. progress2011 - Mar 20, 2014 at 10:53 PM

    Not to mention:

    1. He NEVER wanted to go to the lakers anyway! It was the very last option.

    2. Kobe told this grown man, who is an All Star (as his numbers and performance show this season and in previous seasons…prior to the lakers stint)…..that he would be the 3rd Option…..when he is used to being Option 1……WHAT!

    3. Don’t mention the coach…who has ZERO clue about coaching a big man, running set plays to get him touches and ordering kobe to pass the ball occasionally !

    All this revisionist history….just thought I’d share a few FACTS.

  8. savvybynature - Mar 20, 2014 at 11:45 PM

    “Forgetting about the insane number of injuries L.A. has endured this season and last, the team wasn’t constructed to win a title even if everyone was healthy.”

    Interesting. I wonder if Brett Pollakoff of PBT would have agreed? Oh wait, apparently that guy wrote the season preview for the Lakers before last season (, so we don’t have to wonder:
    “Anyone predicting anything other than a trip to the Finals for this stacked Lakers squad is being delusional at worst, or contrarian at best.”

    Interesting. Hindsight makes us all yesterday’s psychics I guess, able to predict the present with amazing accuracy!

  9. eugenesaxe1 - Mar 20, 2014 at 11:55 PM

    She’s not stupid, she knows exactly why he left. She’s just being polite

  10. savvybynature - Mar 20, 2014 at 11:55 PM

    As she stated clearly, and you restated multiple times in the article, she runs the business of the Lakers — not the team, not the personnel, the business. Last I heard the Lakers got a mega-TV deal and business is going pretty well, so why should she “honestly consider another profession”?
    Seems like maybe you should consider your own advice (but instead you will probably just keep my comments censored so as to protect yourself from the kind of scrutiny you are glibly heaping on Jeanie Buss).

    • savvybynature - Mar 21, 2014 at 12:05 AM

      Ahh, c’mon… post the comment where I point out that in last season’s preview you called the Lakers stacked, said anyone predicting less than a Finals appearance was delusional, and all but handed them the Larry O!
      I know it looks bad now that you’re saying the team had no chance at a title even if healthy, but where’s your sense of humor?

      • Professor Fate - Mar 21, 2014 at 11:19 AM

        I posted a long comment last night criticizing this story. I can only see it on this thread if I sign in. Some of these “writers” take themselves way too seriously.

      • progress2011 - Mar 21, 2014 at 4:30 PM

        Me too…..They actually just started allowing any of my posts to go thru at all!

        I’ve never used vulgar language or any other seriously objectionable language.

        But…if you don’t agree with them specifically…..with FACTS!

        You might be ex-communicated….ahahahahahah

  11. divan22 - Mar 21, 2014 at 1:16 AM

    D’antoni’s an idiot and Kobe’s old/selfish.

    Simple as that, Jeanie.

  12. gattaga72 - Mar 21, 2014 at 2:55 AM

    Kobe is the reason the lakers will suck the next two years!!!!! He is the reason the lakers don’t have more championships !!! Is he doesn’t drive shaq out of town lakers would have at least two more rings

  13. convincedofthehex - Mar 21, 2014 at 6:54 AM

    State taxes

  14. sportfan2 - Mar 21, 2014 at 6:57 AM

    Lot’s of people just do not like L.A. or Kobe for that matter.

  15. cristren - Mar 21, 2014 at 10:14 AM

    Dwight Howard, has said publicly, that he would like to win a championship, and apparently he felt his chances of doing so, was slim to none, as long as he stayed with the Lakers, and in the beginning, it was obvious, that there was bad blood between him, and Kobe Bryant.

  16. cristren - Mar 21, 2014 at 10:14 AM

    Dwight Howard, has said publicly, that he would like to win a championship, and apparently he felt his chances of doing so, was slim to none, as long as he stayed with the Lakers, and in the beginning, it was obvious, that there was bad blood between him, and Kobe Bryant.

  17. wkl21 - Mar 21, 2014 at 11:16 AM

    he left because of Kobe Bryant (can’t wait until he’s gone).

  18. wkl21 - Mar 21, 2014 at 11:24 AM

    KobME “fiercest competitor”?

    luckiest coat tailer if you ask me.

    • 24thesho - Mar 21, 2014 at 11:56 AM

      Now, see? Your comment reads just plain dumb.

  19. au1978 - Mar 21, 2014 at 2:19 PM

    Pollakoff claims to know the reasons Dwight left, including the fact that he only wants to have fun and doesn’t want the pressure of being a leader???? The same stupid things that the media has tried to force us to believe about him.

    People can say that James Harden is the true star of the Rockets, and to some extent I agree, but that team has ALREADY won as many games with a month left in the season as the team did last year. That is ALL because of Howard. According to his teammates, he’s shown great leadership in the lockeroom, is an example to the younger guys and yes, he has fun. But what’s wrong with having fun when you’re winning? The Rockets probably won’t win a championship this year, but if they stick together, they will be a team to be reckoned with next year.

  20. dinofrank60 - Mar 22, 2014 at 3:36 PM

    I don’t care if you’re the Lakers, Celtics, Heat, Bucks or Jazz, you don’t beg a player to stay in an organization. If he doesn’t want to be there (or here), later for him. Go on to plan B.
    This goes for any player.

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