Kobe Bryant is never one to pull punches, especially earlier in his career. So when the Lakers landed Dwight Howard in an offseason trade in 2012, it was only a matter of time that Kobe’s patience for the fun-loving big man would run thin.
Eventually, it did.
Their friction hamstrung a Lakers team that many believed would make a deep run in the playoffs; Los Angeles was bounced in the first round. Kobe’s win-at-all-costs mentality didn’t mesh with Dwight’s penchant to yuk it up.
Kobe probably didn’t find it too funny that Howard reportedly was making fun of him behind his back about a shooting slump while the team was sitting at 17-24. The Lakers tried to diffuse the situation, with Kobe going as far as posting a photo of him and Howard play fighting with then-coach Mike D’Antoni trying to break it up.
But Kobe’s true feelings about Howard eventually came out. The Mamba reportedly told Howard he could teach him how to win when the Lakers were trying to re-sign Howard in 2013. Howard bolted to the Rockets shortly thereafter, and many thought Kobe’s remarks were harsh.
Fast forward to Thursday, when Yahoo Sports reported that the Houston Rockets are reportedly dangling Howard in trade discussions. If Howard is dealt, it would be the fourth team he’s played for in his 12-year career.
The Rockets have imploded this season. They fired Kevin McHale after a 4-7 start, and after Houston’s loss Wednesday, interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said, "we’re broken. It’s that simple." Veteran guard Jason Terry reportedly was much harsher:
Jason Terry walks through the media room on way to the locker room. "No chemistry with that group. F****** horrible." #CSNBlazers#ripcity
Now does this all fall at Howard’s feet? Maybe not all of it, but he deserves some blame, along with All-Star guard James Harden. The duo was supposed to form a one-two punch that would make the Rockets a legitimate contender.
But the Rockets are sitting at 27-28. It would be laughable to mention them among the title contenders at this point. But Howard just wants to stay positive:
Dwight Howard said "All we do is talk about the issues we have. Nobody's being positive. We can't speak negatively every single game."
Kobe, on the other hand, thrives on a killer instinct that he didn’t see in Howard (Bryant went so far as to call him "soft" when the two were tussling for a rebound in 2014). Bryant knew Howard wouldn’t retaliate. He had no respect for Howard as a leader, even though Howard helped the Magic make it to the Finals in 2009.
Bryant didn’t want to hand the keys to the Lakers to Howard. Los Angeles’ current position (11-44) aside, the Lakers avoided a huge mistake by re-signing Howard. And the franchise — and its fans — have Kobe to thank.