Well, sadly, that is a reality now.
At 34-years old, Kobe Bryant underestimated himself coming into this season. He felt that he could no longer win solely on his own, and Los Angeles brought in the best center in the league, Dwight Howard, to take the floor alongside the Mamba in hopes of another title.
A dominant center, who at times seems content with losing, clashing with Bryant. Does that sound familiar?
Shaquille O’Neal is very critical of Howard because he feels that Howard tries to emulate everything that he did in his playing days. Both of them began on the Orlando Magic, went to the Lakers, used the same “Superman” nickname (although Shaq had millions of nicknames), and both have been teammates with Kobe Bryant in L.A.
O’Neal and Bryant won three consecutive NBA titles (2000, 2001, 2002), but O’Neal was eventually traded a day before Bryant was signed to $136 million extension. Both of them had alpha male personalities, and eventually their feud went public. The two went back and forth both in the locker room and in the press, and public opinion still holds that Bryant had a hand in O’Neal’s departure from Los Angeles.
Since Howard and O’Neal are so much alike, it seems like it is just a matter of time before Bryant chases Howard out of town.
Howard is 27-years old, but sometimes he acts very childish – not particularly in a bad way, though. He likes to dance, to play pranks on his teammates, and he smiles- a lot- even after losses, which surely infuriates Bryant.
Keep in mind where Howard is coming from, too. In Orlando, he was the golden child, and no one dared question or critique the franchise player. Los Angeles is different, and Bryant holds everyone accountable, and quite frankly, Howard isn’t nearly as dominant as he should be.
There were reports of a physical altercation between them after a Lakers loss this season, in which Howard had to be retrained by his teammates from going after Bryant. Those reports have been diffused by both Bryant and Howard who deny that it took place, but now there are new reports surfacing.
According to LakersNation.com, Howard has mocked Bryant’s recent shooting woes, and has also shown resentment towards the amount of touches that he is getting. He only took five shot attempts last night against the Chicago Bulls, and told reporters that the Lakers needed to “play inside-out,” as he repeatedly pointed at the stat sheet in front of him. “There’s nothing I can do,” Howard said. “Just continue to play. Not get frustrated. As hard as it is, I can’t get frustrated.”
After that same game, Bryant said, “Obviously, this isn’t working.”
The Black Mamba went on to say, “I’ve tried to go out of my way to get (Howard) the ball. Sometimes I end up looking like an idiot, because I get up in the air, I’ve got a shot, but I try to find him. But he thinks I’m going to shoot, so his back is turned. I’m trying to think about getting him the ball a lot – take care of him as much as I possibly can. It takes me out of rhythm a little bit, but I’m fine with that. If that’s going to help our team, I’m more than willing to do that.”
Is a Howard trade coming? At the end of the season Howard will be a free agent, and could leave Los Angeles with no compensation if he decides to sign elsewhere. Based on his recent comments and body language, don’t be surprised if the best big man in the NBA is traded due to an ongoing conflict with Bryant.
It wouldn’t be the first time.