A lot of people have raised a stink over what Kobe Bryant said about Dwight Howard earlier this week. He urged Howard to play through some pain while claiming that the Los Angeles Lakers’ center “worries too much” about media and fan criticism. Bryant told ESPNBoston.com, “We don’t have time for [Howard's shoulder] to heal. … We need some urgency.”
A lot of people thought that Kobe not only called out Howard, but threw him under the bus as well. I will say this: while Kobe did indeed call out Howard, he wasn’t throwing him under the bus.
Before I go any further, let me make something clear – I am not a fan of Kobe Bryant. I still think he helped run Shaq out of town just because he didn’t like playing second banana to him. After all, Kobe only wasted away more potential championship runs because of that. So basically, anytime I see Kobe languish through his Lakers losing some games and falling further out of the playoff race brings me some perverse pleasure.
That said, I’m with Kobe on calling out Howard.
Howard strikes me as a wishy-washy brother who doesn’t know what in the hell he really wants. Just look at last season. He went from wanting to be out of Orlando to wanting to stay to wanting to be out again. This season, he has gone from wanting to be in LA to wanting to be traded to Brooklyn back to wanting to stay in LA.
Howard also doesn’t strike me as the most mentally tough guy. He is so preoccupied with wanting to be liked by everybody, he just can’t block it all out and play his game. As the great Charles Barkley once said, no matter what you do there will always be some people who will hate you, so you might as well do you.
And while no one is questioning how hurt he is, Howard does not seem to grasp that his Lakers’ season is slipping away. Pau Gasol will be sidelined for the next 4-6 weeks with a foot injury, and the Lakers do not stand a chance of competing with both Gasol and Howard not playing.
It is obvious that Howard is not used to playing for a franchise where the culture is championship or bust every season. The media in LA is more intense and does not have time for losers in the second largest media market in the country. Howard didn’t have to worry about such urgencies in Orlando. Howard was the big fish in the small pond that is Orlando, and the media treated him with kid gloves because of that.
Let’s not forget that his former coach Stan Van Gundy did challenge him in Orlando. As a result, Howard played his best basketball for Van Gundy.
That’s what Kobe is trying to do to Howard – challenge him. Kobe has seen what happened when Howard played with a purpose. Kobe wants that version of Howard playing alongside him, not the happy go-lucky goofball who is clearly not focused.