Dwight Howard's distaste for the offense and approach of coach Mike D'Antoni is widely cited as the biggest trigger in his decision to leave the Los Angeles Lakers. But another key factor that led the All-Star center to the Houston Rockets was the Lakers' refusal to establish a clear timetable for moving on from the Kobe Bryant era, according to sources with knowledge of Howard's thinking.

Sources told ESPN.com that Howard and his representatives -- in a handful of meetings with Lakers officials before he became a free agent July 1 -- strongly suggested the center would have a difficult time re-signing with the team if Bryant stayed with the franchise beyond the 2013-14 season, the final year of his contract.

The Lakers, almost from the moment Howard arrived in August 2012, had gone to great lengths to assure the 27-year-old that they saw him as the future face of the franchise and that the torch would be passed from Bryant to him in short order.

But with Bryant saying publicly just a week before free agency that he was thinking of playing at least two or three more seasons, it was hard for Howard to envision when he would assume that role, sources said.

"How can it be Kobe's team and Dwight's team?" one source said. "It was about the passing of the torch."

As an offshoot of those discussions, sources said, Howard's camp at one point asked the Lakers whether they were at least considering releasing Bryant through the league's amnesty provision, since Bryant's return date from Achilles tendon surgery remained in question.

ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard reported last month that Howard and All-Star point guard Chris Paul had discussions before free agency about trying to land with the same team. Howard and Paul had interest in playing together in Los Angeles, with either the Lakers or the Clippers, or with the Atlanta Hawks, sources said.

Releasing Bryant via the amnesty provision and shopping Pau Gasol and Steve Nash to teams with salary-cap space would have allowed the Lakers to try to recruit Paul in free agency. But the Lakers, sources said, made it clear the prospect of releasing Bryant or simply trying to lay out a finite timetable on the end of his career with the franchise was not under consideration, believing those decisions should and would be made by Bryant.

Bryant made it clear from the first day of training camp this past season that the Lakers were his team, and he saw it as his responsibility to prepare Howard for that responsibility one day. Howard stated that he was anxious to learn from Bryant, Nash and Gasol. Both Howard and Bryant were amenable to that arrangement early, but as the season wore on, it became clear to Howard that there wouldn't be a clean transfer of power, sources said.

"I just really think the timing in L.A., it wasn't right for me," Howard told ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin on Friday. "Maybe two years ago, or 2-3 years from now, it would have been the right time. But I just think right now the timing was off for me. That's not saying that L.A. is a bad place, but I just think it's all about timing and fit when you're talking about basketball. You can put anybody together on the court and expect them to win, but the pieces have to really fit in order for a team to be successful and it was very, very tough, man. It's probably one of the toughest decisions I've ever had to make in my life."