After being on the losing end of a lopsided 126-97 loss to the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers’ legend and the soon-to-be retired Kobe Bryant addressed his relationship with former teammate and current Rockets center Dwight Howard.
Bryant and Howard were teammates for one season during the 2012-13 campaign; a season in which many expected the Lakers to be a powerhouse in the Western Conference. However, a slow start to the season partnered with injuries to both Bryant and Howard saw the Lakers limp to the seventh seed in the Western Conference. The team was swept 4-0 by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round.
Now, three years after they were on the same team, Bryant spoke about his time playing with Howard.
“My responsibility when Dwight and I played together was to get him to play his best basketball,” Bryant told Mark Media of the Los Angeles Daily News. “That involves pushing buttons.”
In the early part of that season, Howard was struggling with his health, coming off back surgery in the offseason and fighting through a partially torn labrum in his shoulder. But, when he did play, Howard suggested he wasn’t getting enough opportunities to score the basketball.
In an interview with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, Howard said he thought Bryant “shot the ball a lot,” while he was trying to establish a groove offensively.
“You play with Kobe Bryant you know, he’s going to get them up. But, at the same time, I have to find ways to still be effective. I can’t allow that to affect how I play. There were a lot of times early in the season where I would get upset you know because I felt like he shot the ball a lot. And you know, I wanted some touches down low. Do I want touches, yeah. But, whatever I have to do to help this team win, I have to keep my mind in that area.”
Howard was a free agent after the 2012-13 and the Lakers were coming off a disappointing 45-37 record in the regular season. But, the team was still trying to re-sign Howard. The Atlanta, Georgia native was also fielding offers from the Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks, and Golden State Warriors. Howard tweeted (via Yahoo Sports) that he was signing with Houston, making his Lakers’ stint just one season long.
When Howard’s signing became official, a report from ESPN suggested that Howard left Los Angeles because he did not want Bryant to be with the team after the 2013-14 season. Howard has since denied those reports, telling the Los Angeles Daily News in 2014 that: “I didn’t leave L.A. because I was afraid of Kobe, I went to a good situation for myself.”
The same night Howard made those comments, he and Bryant were involved in a heated argument on the court in which Bryant could be seen calling Howard “soft.”
When Bryant announced that he is retiring at the end of the current season, Howard was asked by reporters, including Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post, whether he learned anything playing with Bryant. He asked for the next question.
However, later on, Howard expressed his respect for Bryant’s career.
Full Dwight Howard quote on Kobe. Initially says he had an “amazing career.” pic.twitter.com/AHluCeldDT
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) November 30, 2015
A lot of time has passed since Bryant and Howard were teammates and the “Black Mamba” insists to media that the “issues they had weren’t personal.” Howard also added that Bryant is “one of the greatest players to ever play the game.”
[Image by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images]