Plan D12: Unlike D'Antoni, Carlisle would feature big man

ESPNDallas.com will compare the Mavericks, Lakers and Rockets in five facets -- other than money -- that could play a role in Dwight Howard's free agency decision in a one-per-day series: owners/front office, coaches, co-stars, supporting casts and franchise tradition. We focused on Chris Paul last week.

Mike D’Antoni’s stubborn refusal to tweak his beloved system to feature Dwight Howard is one of the primary reasons the All-Star big man will be tempted to leave Los Angeles.

That coach/player relationship is a bad situation that could get even worse. The Lakers lost the two assistants who were Howard’s closest confidants when D’Antoni opted not to retain Chuck Person and the Bobcats hired Steve Clifford as their head coach.

Would the Lakers allow Howard to essentially fire a head coach who was hired after Mike Brown’s dismissal early last season? Would Howard even want to deal with the PR fallout from such a decision after his highly publicized divorce with Stan Van Gundy in Orlando?

If coaching is a major factor in Dwight’s decision, it doesn’t seem very likely that he’d stay in L.A.

Playing for Kevin McHale in Houston could certainly be intriguing. After all, if Howard is determined to truly maximize his offensive potential, he could surely learn a few tricks from one of the craftiest low-post scorers in NBA history.

McHale, however, doesn’t have many skins on the wall as a head coach. McHale has a 118-124 record and has yet to win a playoff series, credentials that pale compared to a certain former Celtics teammate who also currently works in Texas.

Rick Carlisle, with his 520-366 record and 2011 championship ring, is by far the most accomplished among these three coaches.

It shouldn’t be hard for Carlisle to convince Howard that the Mavs would come up with creative ways to tap into his talent. He could start by showing Howard tape of some of the sets Carlisle’s Pacers used to get Jermaine O'Neal deep-post touches in his prime.

One might think the hard-driving Carlisle would clash with the laidback Howard. But give the Virginia psychology major credit for knowing when to push buttons and having learned over the years the importance of maintaining a strong relationship with his superstars.

That’s a lesson D’Antoni ignored last season, perhaps opening the door for Howard to head to Houston or Dallas.

EDGE: Mavs