Kobe Bryant was cornered by reporters after Tuesday’s practice.
The Lakers superstar is known for his bluntness. He’s known for calling things as he sees them, regardless of the consequences.
So why then didn’t Bryant stick up for Dwight Howard after Shaq offended his current big fella, saying that Philadelphia’s Andrew Bynum and Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez were better than Howard.
“That’s just his job, to make opinions,” Bryant said of O’Neal, initially echoing his politically correct response from earlier this week.
Then Bryant took a stand.
“I mean, Dwight is going to be one of the greatest centers of all time,” he said. To say anything else is “laughable,” he declared.
That’s the Bryant we know and love.
Bryant went on to compare the two centers.
“Shaq has three Finals MVPs and a myriad of championships, but Dwight does have three defensive player of the year awards, something that Shaq was never able to accomplish,” he said. “So I think there’s a lot to be said for Dwight and for where he’s at so early in his career.”
Howard was clearly peeved by O’Neal’s rankings.
“There’s no sense for him to be talking trash to me,” Howard said of O’Neal on Friday. “He did his thing in the league. Sit back and relax. Your time is up.”
Bryant lauded Howard for sticking up for himself.
“He said what had to be said,” Bryant said.
Bryant made it clear that he appreciates Howard’s edge. In fact, it’s something he wants Howard to further develop on the court.
“You have to have a little bit of that in you,” Bryant said. “Dwight, to be a three-time defensive player of the year, you have to have a little of that dog in you. It’s there, it’s just a matter of him digging deep and pulling it out. It’s just a matter of him having it become habit.”
And how does Howard make that habit?
“Just by him observing how I practice and how I play,” Bryant said. “It’s just making guys uncomfortable. It is what it is.
“If you want to get to the next level, you’re going to have to go out there and a guy’s guarding you in practice, you’re going to have to punish him and send him a message. Make the guy who’s guarding him think about if he wants to play in the NBA anymore.”