We all know that Howard embraced the prospect of going to Hollywood because of the glitz and the glamor, and maybe even the weather. But he also came to win championships, to make a name for himself as one of the most decorated big men in NBA history.
His path to such a lucrative achievement begins with Kobe. The same Kobe who has said—in the same month, mind you—that he will retire when his contract expires in 2014, but would also like to play until he's 40.
Obviously, no one—not even Bryant himself—has any idea as to when he is going to retire. But at 34 and with a penchant for playing through injuries, illnesses and missing limbs (just kidding), we can be sure that such a day is coming sooner rather than later.
Maybe Bryant will play for another three years, maybe another five, but how many of those years will be spent playing at the career-setting pace he is performing at now?
Not many, which is why Howard needs to make the most of this version of Kobe before it disappears. Because as horrendous as the Lakers have been this season, they are still one of the most talented teams in the league. Struggling or not, this roster serves as a luxury Los Angeles cannot guarantee it will always have.
So, Howard must win now, since he can't, with any certainty, predict what is going to happen later.
What if Los Angeles isn't able to assemble a second super team around the behemoth? What if this is the most talented team Howard ever plays on? What if Kobe is the best sidekick he'll ever have?
Of course, such concerns could prove pointless. The Lakers are a crafty bunch after all. But again, we don't know.
What we do know, however, is that Howard is playing alongside one of the best players to ever play the game now. He's riding shotgun to an athlete that has already won five NBA titles now. He doesn't need someone similar to Bryant because he's playing next to the Black Mamba now.
He has an opportunity to compete for a title now.
And so, he must make the most of now.
Contrary to what Bryant would have you believe on any given day of the week, he's not going to be around forever. As resourceful as the Lakers are, their title window won't be open forever either; the chance to compete as a powerhouse isn't necessarily going to present itself for the duration of Howard's career.
Making the most of Kobe's waning years, though, ensures that Howard leaves his imprint on the Los Angeles organization before such doubts can be actualized.
Winning a title while Kobe is still Kobe allows him to build a lasting legacy that cannot be tarnished by future failures or inevitable shortcomings. It also provides Howard with a foundation with which to build upon.
Doing that, however, is much easier written or spoken than put into action. Howard is already struggling within the likes of Mike D'Antoni's system, and the Lakers find themselves struggling to play .500 basketball as a result.
Much of the team's struggles can be placed upon the shoulders of Pau Gasol and the shin of Steve Nash, yet there remains no excuse for Howard's roller-coaster doses of aggression.
Thus far, Howard is shooting a career worst 47.8 percent from the foul line and has attempted 12 or less shots in 10 different games. He's also averaging just 17.9 points per contest, his lowest point totals since the 2006-07 campaign.
While it must be noted that Howard is not used to being surrounded by so much talent, Gasol is attempting a career-low 12.1 shots per bout, Bryant hasn't attempted few a number of field goals in 13 years and Nash is still watching from the sidelines.
In other words, Howard's lack of aggression is on Howard, and nobody else.
Even more disconcerting, though, is that Lakers are 5-0 when the big man puts up more than 12 shots in a game. How is that not telling of what he needs to do? How does that not serve as instruction as to how not to squander his time next to the league's leading scorer in Bryant?
Howard must make note of this. All of this. Just like he must acknowledge that time to both begin and solidify his path to becoming one of Tinseltown's greatest ever is now.
While Kobe is still by his side.
Stats in this article are accurate as of November 29th, 2012.
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