Dwight Howard, left, and Kobe Bryant walk off the court following a game… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
Anger. Betrayal. Confusion.
That trio of emotions seemed to be shared by most Lakers fans in the Staples Center area Friday evening — because they didn't expect center Dwight Howard to jump ship for the Houston Rockets.
"He's not going to get a better place to play," said Doug Bode, 50, of Las Vegas. "There's more opportunities here than I think anywhere else.
PHOTO GALLERY: Dwight Howard and the Lakers
"Long term I think it would've been great. I think he could've come in this year and made a big difference if he had his head together."
Bode and other Lakers fans interviewed expected Howard to return after averaging 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game last season in L.A. They thought with Howard, plus a relatively healthy roster, the Lakers would be NBA championship contenders next season.
Instead, they're bidding good riddance to the 27-year-old superstar.
"This would've been the ideal situation for him to flourish and become a standout," Bode said. "Not that he wasn't already, but even bigger, with championships."
Most of the Lakers fans think Howard has little chance of winning any championships with the Rockets, even with All-Star guard James Harden and under the tutelage of Coach Kevin McHale, who was a Hall of Fame post player.
Israel Sandoval, 37, of San Diego, is disappointed that he never got to see the Lakers last season with Howard at full strength. Sandoval said it doesn't feel right for Howard to leave before the planned starting lineup of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Howard got a chance to play a full season together.
"He said he was coming here to perform, he couldn't deliver and now he's bailing out on us after one year," Sandoval said.
Michelle Perell attends about 20 Lakers games a year, sitting 15 rows behind the bench. She said that Howard "chickened out."
Perell liked the chemistry Howard was developing with Bryant and thought that after Bryant pitched a return to Howard, he would likely stay.
"I thought he was going to stay here and learn the game like he's supposed to," Perell said.
Anthony Romulo, 27, of Walnut, admitted that while he expected Howard to stay and thought the Lakers could compete for a title with him, the Bryant-Howard dynamic was a tough one to work out. Two "volume shooters," he called them.
"I hate to say it, I love Kobe Bryant, but Harden does not necessarily need the ball as much as Kobe Bryant," Romulo said.
Unfortunately for Lakers fans, the reality is it will be Harden teaming with Howard, not Bryant.
Romulo summed up the decision in eight words: "Good for Houston fans, terrible for Lakers fans."