Below is a Q&A with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, who talked with this newspaper about Dwight Howard, his free agency and his relationship with coach Mike D’Antoni
Is it true, as ESPN Los Angeles reported, that Dwight Howard in his separate interview after his formal exit interview that he lamented frustrations about Mike D’Antoni, specifically about how he felt marginalized on the team?
“Criticism of a coach did not come up. Our coach did not come up. In terms of the way the season went and our talent, group and players and how they think in general, I would venture to say most of our players felt this was a frustrating season and that they didn’t get to show their talents as much as they would have liked to.
Some of that had to do with the coaching change because of one coach to another, no training camp and that all whole thing. Some of it had to do with injuries and some of it had to do with Mike making adjustments as the season went on so in general I would answer that question as to say I’m talking about Pau, Steve Nash and everybody felt the season didn’t go the way they wanted to. I think in general they all felt that there are ways to utilize their talent better going forward. That would include Dwight in that group.
What do you make of that feedback you were given?
There’s a lot to take from the season. Put aside the injury thing. We can’t really completely get off of. That had so much to do with the season. But I would say a season that ended with Kobe’s injury, we didn’t really have a chance to go much further at that point anyway.
But from the moment that Mike got here and assessing the talent on the team, he was searching and making changes and being flexible and learning the talent. I would say the same goes with the players on the team. They were getting a feel for what Mike wanted to see. It was a season of adjustments and once again it’s hard to go through a season with no training camp and the injuries we had. I don’t want to say it was a learning experience. That doesn’t fly. It really doesn’t. The bottom line is we got knocked out in the first round. All that stuff aside, that’s the bottom line.
How would you characterize Dwight’s relationship with Mike?
“I don’t want to start nitpicking. There are 13 guys on a team. The eight guys who don’t start don’t like the coach and the five who do start, there are usually two or three that aren’t happy either for one reason or another. I would venture to say at one point during the season for every player, they have a problem with the coach.
But being around as long I’ve been around, it doesn’t bother me when I hear at some point a player didn’t see eye to eye with a coach. Players don’t have to like coaches. They just have to play hard. In L.A., our coaches get evaluated on wins and losses and not whether our players like them or don’t like them. It doesn’t matter.”