Lakers center Dwight Howard talks LeBron James’ leadership and Kobe Bryant rift ‘in the past’
LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Lakers continue to make easy work of opponents with the now having won their 11th game of this young season. Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks came to town on Sunday night but didn’t stand much of a chance against LeBron James and company falling to this championship-caliber team convincingly, 122-101.
Along with the Lakers cruising to their fourth straight win, Kobe Bryant made a rare appearance at tonight’s game. The five-time NBA champion hasn’t been seen much at the Staples Center since retiring back in April of 2016, but tonight he was courtside with some interesting storylines as it was the first time he got to see his former teammate Dwight Howard back in purple and gold.
After the win over the Hawks, another one of Howard’s former teams, the veteran center talked about seeing Bryant again as well as the leadership of his current superstar teammate in LeBron.
“He’s our leader,” Howard said of James. “He has to continue to play at a high level for us to win every night. He’s been providing us with great offense. On the defensive end, he’s been doing a lot better job of contesting, but also playing great one-on-one defense.”
Howard praised the leadership of his new teammate and how James doesn’t abuse the leadership role his in during his stint in Los Angeles. Dwight also mentions that LeBron listens to his teammates, which is an interesting tidbit having just bumped into Bryant, who he famously didn’t get along with in his first go-around with the Lakers.
“I just appreciate everybody on the team,” Howard said. “We’ve all had opportunities to where we were ‘that guy’ or whatever. LeBron is in that position. He doesn’t abuse it. He’s done an excellent job of coming in every day working. Been a great leader, but also he listens. He pushes us. We push him, and our job is to make each other better.
“So having a great teammate and a great leader in LeBron just made our team a lot better.”
As for bumping into Kobe before the game, Howard says future Hall of Famer caught him by surprise. Bryant has said that Howard has played well this season publicly, and he made sure to tell the three-time Defensive Player of the Year face-to-face on Sunday night.
“I didn’t even know who it was,” Dwight said about Kobe coming up to him. “He slapped me on the neck. I was about to elbow him, but then he said, ‘What’s up, man? You playing good.’ It was cool, man. I’m glad he came to the game. It was a lot of fun to have him in the building. The crowd was going ham, so it was great to have him.”
Bryant and Howard haven’t played together since 2013. Kobe tore his Achilles ending his season while Howard chose to leave the team in free agency to join James Harden and the Houston Rockets. Dwight leaving the team and subsequent head-to-head matches with Kobe to follow were anything but civil.
However, Howard has put the bad blood behind him, and it seems like Bryant has as well as he enjoys retirement. Dwight said the following about whether there are any hard feelings between the two.
“It doesn’t matter,” Howard said. “That’s the past. This is a new age. A new day. All about positive vibes.”
So far, Howard has been making considerable progress in changing his image, reputation, and impact on the basketball floor. The veteran big man has become a fan favorite once again in Los Angeles with nothing but a championship on his mind in his second stint with the storied franchise.