Could Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant Co-Exist?
Not so long ago, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant shared the court with a dominant All-Star center, and together the two of them won three NBA championships. Of course, the accompanying struggle over which of them deserved more credit for the titles wound up tearing the team apart.
Now, two championships later for Bryant and the Lakers, there is talk of another dominant center possibly joining the team. Speculation has run rampant that the Orlando Magic will be forced to trade Dwight Howard, today’s equivalent of Shaquille O’Neal, and that he just might land in L.A. with the Lakers. Recent discussions between Bryant and Howard have only served to fuel the fire of trade talks.
Eric Pincus covers the Lakers for HOOPSWORLD, and he believes the time is right for Bryant to once again share the court with an all-world big man.
Pairing a big man with a ball dominant guard works. Dwight Howard with Kobe Bryant, even with Bryant well-past 30, would work exceptionally well.
As great a player as Andrew Bynum may become, if healthy, he doesn’t have the same impact on the game as Howard. Bynum has a wider array of post moves but Howard trumps him in overall play, especially defensively. The tricky part is balancing Howard’s role in the offense, given that bigs in general are reliant on their guards for the ball, and Bryant is not always a willing passer. Bryant’s willingness to shoot the ball this season is off the charts and can frustrate, especially players like Pau Gasol, Bynum and in his place, it would Howard.
Would the Lakers be better with Howard in place of Bynum? Yes. Would the Lakers have enough to win a title? Not any more than they do now, a piece short at the point guard position.
Bryant would take a lot of pressure off of Howard offensively. Teams would be forced to pick and choose between doubling Dwight or Kobe, which would open up the floor for other players. Bynum is growing into that role but compared to Howard, he’s still learning how to deal with constant double-teams. Howard may have his limitations on that front as well, but he’s a finished product, while Andrew continues to be a work in progress.
As far as sharing the spotlight, Bryant has always been about winning first. As great as Shaquille O’Neal was, he was not considered (by Kobe and others) to be a hard worker off the court. If Bryant believes that Howard is dedicated to winning, and willing to put the time in, Kobe will willingly accept Howard’s star power in Los Angeles.
Kobe is thinking rings, catching Michael Jordan and his legacy. If Howard is the key to that, Bryant will roll out the carpet. Just don’t expect him to share the ball, he’s still going to be Kobe . . .
HOOPSWORLD’s Alex Kennedy is based in Orlando, and as such has Dwight Howard’s ear on a regular basis. He isn’t sure that Howard is ready to play second fiddle to anyone, even someone as great as Kobe Bryant. And make no mistake; in L.A. Howard would be Kobe’s second in command.
At this point in Kobe Bryant’s career, he just wants to win championships. He has matured over the years and doesn’t seem concerned about sharing the limelight in Los Angeles as long as he’s contending each and every season. Bryant would love for the Lakers to acquire Howard because it would make his job easier and increase his odds of winning a sixth ring.
However, Howard hasn’t reached that point in his career. He doesn’t just want to a win a championship, he wants to be the one leading his team to the Promised Land. He doesn’t want another superhero, he wants a sidekick. Howard knows that the Lakers are Bryant’s team, which is why the New Jersey seems to be his preferred destination at the moment. If Howard teams up with Deron Williams on the Nets, he’ll finally have the help he needs while still being the face of the franchise.
Why hasn’t Howard expressed interest in the Chicago Bulls? They’re already one of the best teams in the league and they have the young center – Joakim Noah – necessary to complete a deal. Those close to Howard believe it’s because he’ll never be the alpha male in Chicago since Derrick Rose is the hometown kid who already has an MVP award in his trophy case, despite being three years younger.
Would Howard join the Lakers knowing that he’ll be the face of the franchise once Bryant’s playing days are over? That’s a possibility. However, it definitely seems like he’s concerned about being perceived as a second option.
If Howard is traded to Los Angeles, he and Bryant won’t have any problems co-existing on the court. They would make the game so much easier for one another and they’d form one of the scariest duos in the league, offensively and defensively. They both have incredible work ethics and are entirely focused on winning. Howard and Bryant played together during the 2008 Summer Olympics and have maintained a relationship ever since. Last night, Howard admitted that he and Bryant talk every now and then about basketball and how he can elevate his game to the next level.
Playing in Los Angeles is very different than playing in Orlando. Howard’s game would be under the microscope and he’d have to develop thick skin. However, that’s what Howard is signing up for if he wants to be the alpha male in a larger market.
The Orlando Magic are still a long way away from deciding to trade Dwight Howard; in fact, ownership has made it clear that even if GM Otis Smith can find a reasonable trade – like the three-way with the New Jersey Nets and Portland Trail Blazers – they are unwilling to part with their star center. The fact that the team is currently second in the Eastern Conference and just beat the Lakers only adds strength to their resolve.
Don’t expect to see a trade between the Lakers and Magic any time soon, but if it does come down to that, it will be interesting to see how successful the team might be before Howard and Bryant would fall victim to the same outside forces that divided Kobe and Shaq.