ESPN published a lengthy Q&A that Jackie MacMullan did with Dwight Howard on Thursday, and it touched on a number of subjects that have come up throughout the course of Howard's NBA career. Just like he was on Inside the NBA last week, Howard was extremely open and honest while speaking with MacMullan, and he provided her with answers that went above and beyond your typical athlete clichés.
One of the issues that came up was the season Howard spent playing alongside Kobe Bryant with the Lakers. If that brief period of time has somehow escaped your memory, Howard and Kobe weren't on the best of terms during their time together. Sure, they tried to make it work and even poked fun at their perceived problems:
But Kobe didn't pull any punches once Howard decided to leave Los Angeles in free agency during the summer of 2013. It became clear they couldn't play on the same team.
So what exactly went wrong? Well, during his interview with MacMullan, Howard revealed that "team chemistry" was an afterthought in L.A. "When I got to L.A. [in 2012], they told me, 'You don't need team chemistry. You just need to be able to play basketball together,'" Howard said. "So which is it? It's confusing.'"
When MacMullan asked Howard whether egos played a part in his power struggle with Kobe, he said that he was more than willing to take a backseat to him.
"I wanted Kobe and me to work," he said. "I just think we were at two different points of our careers. When I went there, people warned me, 'Dwight, you gotta realize Kobe still wants to be the star.' My response was, 'Fine.' I said the same thing to Steve [Nash]. I wanted to learn from those guys. I wasn't trying to outshine them.''
Howard also talked about Kobe challenging him through the media to play through a torn labrum and insinuated that he didn't like it.
"Kobe put some pressure on me," he said. "He said something like, 'We don't have time for Dwight to be hurt.' The media is asking me, 'Did you talk to Kobe about your injuries?' I said, 'I didn't realize I was supposed to check with another player about my health.' When I first got there, I said to Kobe in front of the whole team, 'The only way we win is if we put our egos aside and play together.' I wanted to play with him. I don't know if he didn't want to play with me—if he felt I wasn't a killer like him.''
And while Howard said the Lakers front office wanted him to resign in the summer of 2013 despite his problems with Kobe, he ultimately decided to sign elsewhere because he didn't like the direction the team was headed in or the way he was treated when he was with the Lakers.
"I just felt like it wasn't a team," he said. "I wanted a team. There were things that went on during the season that made me feel like I wasn't a part of it, like the thing with Kobe and my shoulder. People were saying, 'Dwight's so strong, he's Superman, he should play through it.' It was a torn labrum. I should have had surgery, but I didn't. I came back instead. I'll never forget the game we played against the Celtics in Boston [on Feb. 7, 2013]. I hadn't practiced for a while—I had just been working on the treadmill. But I played in Boston. We got blown out. Coach [Mike D'Antoni] still had me in when we were down 30. After the game, I'm walking off the court and a Lakers fan throws his jersey and hits me in the face. It was my name on that jersey. I will never forget that the rest of my life."
In addition to the Kobe/Lakers drama, the ESPN interview also touches on Howard's current free agency plans, his relationship with James Harden (it doesn't sound good!), that awkward moment he shared with Stan Van Gundy, his fear of missing jump shots, and how criticism affects him. You can check out the whole interview here.
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