Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 11/19/12
EL SEGUNDO, CA -There was a tense moment at the Lakers' training facility Monday afternoon when center Dwight Howard was a bit miffed by a question concerning his relationship with Brooklyn guard Deron Williams. When a reporter asked Howard if he had talked with Williams and settled any differences they might have - implying that WIlliams was upset with him for choosing to approve a trade to the Lakers rather than Brooklyn - Howard said: "Smooth things over. Why? That was my decision, my life. If he's upset because I made a decision for me, so be it. If he doesn't want to be friends because I'm on another team, so be it. There's no need to smooth things over." It will be interesting to see if there will be any pre-game niceties between the two on Tuesday night at Staples Center. The two have always reportedly been very close and Williams was the Nets' chief recruiter as the team tried to persuade Howard to move his game to the New York borough. According to a Yahoo! Sports report last July, Williams and Howard were actually talking about becoming teammates as far back as the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where they helped the USA win a gold medal. "It was just talk about that point four years ago," Williams said. "Brooklyn is going to be huge. That factored into my decision to re-sign with the Nets. This is a place that hasnt had a sports franchise since the 50s. This is a city that wants basketball." But when the Nets had a chance to acquire Howard via trade last season, Williams was supposedly upset that Dwight waived his Early Termination clause, keeping him in Orlando and allowing a four-team deal to be worked out that put Howard in Los Angeles. And even with all the Laker upheaval so far this season, Howard doesn't regret his decision at all. "I'm here now, in L.A. and there's no need to talk about what might have happened," Howard said. "I'm happy with the team here in L.A. and the fans have always been great here. And now that I'm on the team, since day one they've been unbelievable - to me and to this team. So I'm just happy about that. There's no need to talk about the past. "I'm happy being a Laker. This is the best situation for me." BENCH HELP Despite the fact that the Lakers were able to post a 41-25 record, win their division and make it to the second round of the playoffs last season, it was a less than stellar year for the reserves. The Laker bench ranked near the bottom of the league in nearly every category and even getting Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to come to the Lakers wouldn't have meant title-contender status unless the team re-tooled its bench. So, while Howard and Nash were the focal points of Mitch Kupchak's offseason maneuvering, he also acquired some good role players who seemed to be a perfect fit for a solid second unit. Antawn Jamison, a prolific scorer who averaged 19.5 points per game throughout his 14-year career, was convinced to sign with L.A. despite taking a 13.7 million paycut from his 15 million salary in Cleveland last year. Three-point specialist Jodie Meeks signed as a free agent and Chris Duhon was acquired in the Andrew BynumHoward trade. Added to holdovers Steve Blake, Darius Morris and Devin Ebanks, it looked liked the Lakers could be a very deep team that wouldn't get destroyed when the starters were resting. Well, pretty much like everything else that took place from training camp until Mike Brown was fired, the bench was just a bad as it was in 2011-12. And Brown didn't make things any easier for them by benching them after a bad game - or a bad play.Duhon said that made the reserves' jobs very difficult. "It's tough to go through," said the eight-year veteran from Duke, who has played 68 minutes in the last four games after seeing the floor for only eight minutes total in the five games Brown coached the team. "The Princeton offense is a difficult one to learn, and we were doing as many reps as you can trying to learn it as quickly as possible. But when you get into the battle of the game and you're over thinking, it takes away from your basketball instincts. That was rough for a couple guys. Really tough. "Now with a new system, it's more free, it's easier and guys are just reacting and not thinking or over thinking too much." Duhon went on to say the real beauty of D'Antoni's system is that it has structure, but allows everyone to just play their game. "It may look at times that we're just out there playing pickup basketball," he said, "but there really is a lot of structure to it. Things are already a lot better with this offense and we haven't even mastered it yet. There's a tempo that's needed to run it and once we get that, then you'll see (the bench) score even more." It's exactly what D'Antoni was hoping for from his backups. "That's part of the philosophy," D'Antoni said, "that's what I believe in. I would always try and instill that (confidence) into a player. Those players are here for a reason - you don't make the NBA if you can't play - so there's something they can do and we just have to find out what it is. Then we let than do it and feel uninhibited in that area." It's also apparent that the mood around the Lakers is much lighter than it was under the Brown regime. D'Antoni said he's told the team that along with playing hard that it's important to have fun as well. "It's great to have a coach who feels that way," said Duhon, who played for D'Antoni with the Knicks and had his best scoring season at 11.1 points per game. "You don't want to be always having to look over your shoulder because that's going to make you play timid. When you have the opportunity to play loose, play free, and if you make mistakes the coach is still going to ride with you, it just gives you complete confidence as a player." Jamison -who probably struggled more than any of the Lakers playing under Brown's offense - isn't putting up his career numbers yet, but did admit he's a lot more relaxed when he's goes into the game. "I am, definitely," he said. "But it's not just me. I think everybody feels the same way - especially the guys coming off the bench. There's a different energy since coach got here." Which seems to have translated into a happy and productive team, 180 degrees different than the Lakers' squad on display under the deposed Brown.
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