For Mike D’Antoni, Life with Lakers After Dwight Howard Feels Really Good

LOS ANGELES – As blasphemous as this line of thinking is in sports—particularly in the hallowed house of a franchise as storied as the Lakers—there really can be more to life than championships.

“It’s a good locker room,” Lakers guard Steve Blake said Sunday night. “Win or lose.”

The most emerging force in that room—high-energy Jordan Hill, who, like Blake, endured all the negativity of the 2012-13 Lakers season—put it even more aptly than that.

“Like a real team,” Hill said.

Waxing poetic about a 7-7 squad that just beat a clueless crew of Sacramento Kings might seem like a reach. Yet that’s precisely the point.

The goal of this season for the Lakers wasn’t explicitly to win the club’s 17th NBA championship; it was also about a return to the joyfulness that comes with honest work and real camaraderie.

It’s why even Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni can’t resist doing the compare and contrast with regard to last season—unable to forget the expectations, pressures and Dwight Howard’s massive ego.

On Sunday night, D’Antoni mentioned how basic it is to learn to share with others, bringing it all the way back to kindergarten, where “you share your paste and your crayons.” He noted how his players this season share willingly, and he offered one straight-shot example of that.

“They don’t go in and get a stat sheet,” D’Antoni said.

It was on Jan. 21 in Chicago, after the Lakers dropped to 17-24, when Howard, dissatisfied with five field-goal attempts, went around the locker room showing a stat sheet to teammates and reporters.

Just moments after Howard did that, Pau Gasol—despite having his starting job just taken away from him—spoke passionately about the players’ ne...

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