It’s easy to forget now that he’s a small part of the rotation, but the first time Dwight Howard joined the Lakers, it was a huge deal.
After six consecutive All-Star seasons in Orlando, Howard was traded to Los Angeles in 2012 and viewed as a piece capable of keeping the Lakers’ championship window open for years to come. The core of Howard, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash put LA near the top of Western Conference projections.
Remember Sports Illustrated’s infamous “Now This is Going To Be Fun” cover? It was fun — for fans who hated the Lakers.
Los Angeles finished just 45-37 that season and got swept off the floor by the Spurs in the first round of the 2013 playoffs. A number of issues doomed the Lakers’ season, most notably the lack of chemistry between Bryant and Howard, leading to Howard’s departure in free agency.
On Wednesday’s Instagram Live session with current Lakers teammate Jared Dudley, Howard explained what went wrong during that first run.
“I really can’t speak for Kobe, so I’ll speak for myself,” Howard said (via Sports Illustrated’s Melissa Rohlin). “In that season that I played here, I think there was a lot of egos that was in the way of us being the team we wanted to be.”
In a 2015 interview with USA Today, Bryant said he “tried teaching Dwight” what it took to win a championship, but the three-time Defensive Player of the Year wasn’t ready to accept the challenge.
“I know that I approached that season wanting to be the best version of myself and also the man,” Howard said. “You know, I’m young, I just felt like that at the time. It was really hard for me and Kobe to really communicate. I think we were just at two different mental stages.”
Following Bryant’s shocking death in January, Howard acknowledged the regret he felt about words left unsaid.
“It’s super sad because I really wanted to tell him how much I appreciate everything he’s done, all the things he’s said,” Howard said in February. “Even at the time that we were on the same team, we didn’t understand each other but I saw a different Kobe and I even saw a change in myself. And I’m pretty sure he saw it.
“I just wanted to be able to tell him how I felt about him and I never got the chance to. That was really the most heartbreaking part. Every day, it’s been on my mind. It’s something that I’ve just got to deal with.”
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