The tandem of Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard has not gone as the Los Angeles Lakers had planned.
L.A. traded for Howard in the offseason, with the intention of pairing the league’s most dominant defender with one of the best scorers in the NBA. The combination of the No.1 center and the five-time champion was expected to lead the Lakers to the NBA Finals.
Instead, the Lakers are on the verge of missing the playoffs.
Not only have Bryant and Howard not been able to help get L.A. over .500, but the two have had their issues off the court. They’ve have been seen arguing on several occasions and, according to the New York Daily News, even had to be restrained before coming to blows in early January.
The latest incident between the teammates involved comments made to the media. Bryant told reporters that Howard had to have a sense of urgency about his injured shoulder, and the team didn’t have time for it to heal. A defensive Howard answered his critics, including Bryant.
"That's his opinion, that's it," Howard said. "He's not a doctor, I'm not a doctor. That's his opinion."
Following Howard's comments, the center played with his injured shoulder against the Boston Celtics. The Lakers lost by 21 points, and Howard had one of his worst efforts of the season.
This isn’t the first time Bryant has feuded with a teammate. In the early part of the 2000’s, the shooting guard butted heads with Shaquille O’Neal, and L.A. was forced to trade their star center.
It’s difficult to compare Bryant’s relationship with the two big men. O’Neal played with Bryant for years, and they were extremely successful together, winning three championships. Howard has played less than 50 games with Los Angeles. The relationship between Bryant and O’Neal eventually got so bad that they couldn’t be on the same team, and that is not the case with the current Lakers teammates.
Still, there are a few similarities between Bryant and O’Neal’s feud and L.A’s current situation.
Bryant’s competitiveness may be the biggest reason that he’s struggled to get along with the two big men. O’Neal was often out of shape, and had aspirations outside of winning a title. Howard has also been unable to match Bryant’s passion for winning, unwilling to play through an injury when L.A. needs him the most.
There have also been issues with sharing the ball. Bryant and O’Neal both wanted to be the No.1 option on offense. Howard has expressed his frustrations about not getting enough touches.
Fortunately for the Lakers, the relationship does not seem to be beyond repair like it was between Bryant and O’Neal. However, time may be running out for the two to get on the same page.
While L.A. traded O’Neal, Howard can leave of his own accord in the summer. The center is set to be a free agent in the offseason.