Comparisons can still be made about how the Los Angeles Lakers allowed two of the best centers of their era to leave the franchise. While the similarities are easy to see, the differences are even more apparent.
Both Howard and O'Neal had issues with Kobe Bryant. Both men weren't content with Bryant's tendency to dominate the ball.
The difference here is that O'Neal was still the alpha male on the team. Even with Bryant's ball-dominating ways being an issue, there was no doubt that the Lakers went as far as O'Neal took them during their three-peat.
On the other hand, Howard was clearly the second option on offense. In fact, under head coach Mike D'Antoni's system, Howard's production may not have even been a focus of the team's attack.
With Howard having a hard time fitting into a template that was tailored toward shooters and the pick-and-roll, it was clear that his role on the offensive end of the floor was nowhere near as important as O'Neal's was.
The significance of this is that O'Neal was ousted from the Lakers despite being their most important offensive cog.
The Lakers wanted O'Neal gone despite his vital role in order to rebuild around Kobe Bean Bryant.
Howard was wooed and courted by the Lakers to return as the cornerstone and future of the franchise. The situations are different because O'Neal was no longer welcome in L.A.'s future, while Howard was integral to the rebuilding process.
In fact, Bryant's presence as a detriment to Howard's potential re-signing was much less significant than his presence in O'Neal's eventual departure to Miami.
Although Bryant and Howard did have their gripes and personality clashes, management itself was more of a factor in Howard's decision to sign elsewhere. In this case, management's decisions in both cases drove both O'Neal and Howard away from the franchise.
When Howard and L.A. itself pined for Phil Jackson, management went with D'Antoni. D'Antoni not only disrespected Pau Gasol, but he didn't allow Gasol and Howard to both be the focal points of the offense until the end of the season, when the duo proved the effectiveness of their dynamic.
Why would Howard stay in L.A. when Houston has all the tools for him to succeed?
In Shaq's case, the big man witnessed the dismissal of Phil Jackson and a bevvy of other rumors (including his name on the trading block) that made O'Neal feel unwanted in L.A.
Bryant was in his prime, and their feud had reached a boiling point. It was no surprise that O'Neal opted to be traded rather than staying in what he felt was a lose-lose situation.
So, while Bryant's ascension to franchise superstar and management's decision to pass the torch to him may have driven O'Neal to choose to be traded, Bryant had much less of a factor in Howard's departure.
In both cases, the driving force in both breakups were management decisions.
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