Because Howard didn’t like his configuration in the Lakers’ system and maybe even more so because he didn’t feel the same kinship with his L.A. teammates as he had in Orlando, he went looking elsewhere when he became a free agent in July. It was the first time he was an unrestricted free agent in his career, and he entertained offers from the Mavericks, Warriors, Rockets and Lakers. When he saw that Houston had what he was looking for, Howard made the difficult decision to leave the Lakers. He knew the fallout of the decision would be difficult to deal with because most star players have flocked to the Lakers through the years, but he held firm because of his previous experiences in Orlando.
``You know, everybody says that I was a coward for leaving (L.A.), but I knew I was going to get that (grief for leaving the Lakers). But I had to find a situation that was best for Dwight,’’ he said. ``I know when I wanted to leave Orlando and I decided to stay, I wasn’t happy on the inside. I wanted to please everybody else and I ended up hurting a lot of people with the way that I did it. So this time, it was like I had a second chance.
``I knew that some people were going to hate me for whatever reason, but I can’t allow that to stop me from making my decision,’’ he continued. ``My decision took a lot of guts because everybody was like, `How can you leave the Lakers with six billion fans?’ But I don’t care about being an outcast. All I’ve got to do is win. I’m in the right spot and all of us want to win. I think we’re going to have a great year.’’
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