Jeanie Buss thinks her father could have kept star center Dwight Howard from bolting the Los Angeles Lakers after one uneventful season.
The team’s executive vice president, Jeanie said her late father Dr. Jerry Buss was in ill health during Howard’s short tenure and the two were never able to establish much of a relationship. But Jeanie says if her father was healthy enough, he could have convinced Howard to stay.
Jeanie Buss says the approach the team took, putting public pressure by taking out a billboard pleading with Dwight and enlisting stars like Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash to make a pitch to him, ended up backfiring.
“They would’ve probably had a better relationship if my dad hadn’t been sick,” Jeanie Buss said in an interview with Mark Willard and Mychal Thompson on ESPNLA 710. “When it came time to try to convince Dwight to stay, we lost the best closer in the business in Dr. Buss. Putting up the billboard maybe wasn’t the right thing. But we maybe have to learn to do things differently because Dr. Buss isn’t here anymore.”
Howard opted to leave the Lakers this offseason via free agency, joining the Houston Rockets. His departure ended what at once appeared to be a burgeoning dynasty. The Lakers were looking to follow up their of the past few years by building the Western Conference’s answer to the Miami Heat, bringing in Howard and Nash to go along with Bryant.
But the team stumbled to a poor start, firing coach Mike Brown and bringing in Mike D’Antoni. The Lakers recovered enough to earn the No. 7 spot in the playoffs, but lost Kobe Bryant to injury late in the season and were swept in the first round by the San Antonio Spurs.
Others have disagreed with Jeanie Buss, saying Howard would have left regardless. Shaquille O’Neal, who led the Lakers to three championships, said he believed Dwight couldn’t handle the pressure and attention that came with playing in Los Angeles.