Will Dwight Howard or Mike D’Antoni Define LA Lakers’ Post-Kobe Bryant Era?

If all goes according to plan for the Los Angeles Lakers (as it so often does), Dwight Howard will re-sign for $118 million this summer and, under Mike D'Antoni's stewardship, become the cornerstone of the franchise in time for the day when it no longer "belongs" to Kobe Bryant.

(Which may be much sooner than anyone had expected, since Bryant, who turns 35 in August, will be trying to come back from a torn Achilles.)

According to Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register, general manager Mitch Kupchak expects Dwight Howard to be the focal point on the court for the Lakers going forward and anticipates that D'Antoni will play along, at the very least:

The only proverbial fly in the ointment, then, would appear to be Howard. He may well pursue a shorter, four-year deal with a young contender on the rise (the Houston Rockets), another aging power attempting a reboot (the Dallas Mavericks) or a hometown team with big dreams (the Atlanta Hawks), among others.

Dwight could just as easily ink a new deal with the Purple and Gold, though him doing so appears to be anything but a slam dunk at this point. Among the many causes for skepticism about Howard's continued residence in LA is, well, D'Antoni's continued residence in LA.

According to Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com, Howard expressed plenty of dissatisfaction about his relationship with the mustachioed coach during a private, post-exit-interview meeting with Mitch Kupchak after the Lakers' season came to an embarrassing end against the San Antonio Spurs.

Apparently, Howard didn't appreciate that D'Antoni turned to Kobe and Steve Nash (i.e. the team's veteran leaders) for leadership, and hardly (if at all) fielded suggestions from Dwight.

(Because we all know what a tremendous leader Howard is...right? Maybe not? Okay.)

Still, per McMenamin, Howard's relationship with D'Antoni is far from beyond repair. It's entir...

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