Surprise, surprise: Daryl Morey, James Harden and a grand master plan weren’t the only reasons Dwight Howard left the Los Angeles Lakers to join the Houston Rockets in free agency last offseason.
According to Phil Jackson’s autobiography, an advance copy of which was given to the New York Daily News this week, Kobe Bryant was another.
The excerpt details the tail-end of the Lakers’ sales pitch to Howard that included Bryant and Steve Nash, one the team initially felt pretty good about.
Until the question arose:
How much longer would Kobe stick around?
“… [A]fter the presentation, Dwight asked Kobe what he was planning to do after he recovered from his Achilles injury. Was this going to be his last year? ‘No,’ replied Kobe. ‘I’m planning to be around for three or four more years.’
At that point, according to others in the room, Dwight’s eyes went blank and he drifted away. In his mind, the game was over.
A few days later he announced that he was signing with the Rockets.”
Jackson’s book serves more to confirm speculation than provide new info. There have long been rumblings that Howard wasn’t a fan of Bryant’s intensity, and that other stars would be reluctant to join Bryant in Los Angeles for the same reason.
Which brings us to Morey, and Houston’s allure as a destination for NBA free agents.
Morey still deserves credit for the Rockets, one of few teams with a max contract slot last summer, being in position to land Howard — including maneuvering the trade that got Harden the offseason prior from the Oklahoma City Thunder.
But it would appear that Howard wasn’t lured here solely by the GM and his vision.
And with Morey coming under fire this week after missing out on Chris Bosh and being one-upped by the Dallas Mavericks on Chandler Parsons, this revelation doesn’t offer much reassurance.
Do NBA free agents buy what Morey is selling?
If next offseason goes the way this one did, it’ll be tough to argue that they do.