Neither player has ever shared the court with a superstar of the other's caliber. Howard was unquestionably the man in Orlando, while Kobe was and remains the man in Los Angeles.
So far, Howard has been a good sport about everything. Kobe has occasionally been critical of Howard, but Howard has responded with good will and silence.
For instance, Kobe criticized Howard for not being aggressive enough on the court, which Howard responded to with grace. Howard noted that Kobe appreciated the talent he brought to the table, but Howard also acknowledged that he could be more aggressive at times.
Clearly, Howard is trying to co-exist with Kobe, but will Kobe do the same?
So far, Kobe has been candid about calling the Lakers his team, but he's also tempered those comments with praise for Howard. According to the Washington Post, Kobe put the damper on talk of a controversy over who was the leader of the team, but he also admitted to looking forward to pass this team off to Howard in the future.
This relationship of mentor-student makes the Lakers unique from the Heat and other collections of superstars. Where the Heat or the Celtics consider one another on largely equal footing, the Lakers still have their one superstar.
In a way, that makes the Lakers that much more dangerous.
There will be no concerns about making sure everyone gets enough touches. Howard will get as many touches as he can offensive boards, plus a few alley-oops and post-ups. Pau Gasol will get his opportunities from the post as usual, and Steve Nash will have plenty of open threes to take.
Ultimately, though, most of the Lakers' plays will be designed for Bryant, the consummate finisher.
Kobe will be the focal point of this offense, obviously, but he will also be responsible for finding open teammates. His ability to do this will be predicated on his ability to put aside his ego.
Kobe's scoring does not need to go down, as he can still post massive numbers and be even more efficient than ever. As long as he realizes this, the Lakers will be front-runners to represent the West in the NBA Finals.
All signs are pointing toward success for the new-look Lakers, despite a rough preseason. In their few minutes on the court together, Kobe and Howard looked excellent.
Howard averaged just 14 points per game in his two preseason games, but he also racked up 8.5 boards per game as well. His numbers will only improve as he gets healthier and develops more chemistry with his teammates.
Meanwhile, Kobe managed 21 points on 50 percent shooting in his lone appearance with Howard. His scoring only tells part of the tale, as it was a pass from Kobe that set up the play of the game.
Kobe and Howard are already displaying great chemistry on this alley-oop. Expect to see more of this as the season goes on.
Don't look too far into the Lakers' preseason performance. Both Kobe and Howard were limited in minutes, but excelled when on the court together. If they can continue that excellence while improving the contributions of their teammates, this is a championship-level squad.
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