Can Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard Strike 'Alpha Male' Balance to Save Lakers?

Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 6, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 02:  Dwight Howard #12 and Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers leave the court during a 113-103 Orlando Magic win at Staples Center on December 2, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard have very different ideas of what it means to be an "alpha male," and their divergent opinions show just how far the Los Angeles Lakers have to go in order to find the chemistry they're so desperately seeking.

In recounting the time he and former Laker Shaquille O'Neal spent as teammates, Bryant alluded to the difficulty of sustaining team chemistry when dueling alpha males are present, via ESPN L.A.'s Ramona Shelburne after Lakers practice Saturday:

Kobe on Shaq: "I'm amazed that it went as long as it did. That just wasn't going to last. You have too many alpha males."

— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) January 6, 2013

Well, the Lakers have another pair of big personalities now in Bryant and Howard. And it's hard not to view Bryant's comments as being somewhat critical of the relationship he and Howard share.

For his part, Howard weighed in on what he believes an alpha male is. Via Shelburne and ESPN.com:

If you're an alpha male, you don't have to always show that you're the alpha male. Just be who you are. You come in the room, people know you're there. My presence is felt every day and I don't have to come here and growl and snarl at people. I don't have to do all that.

That's a pretty obvious shot at Bryant and his notoriously salty demeanor. It's also a very defensive reaction to what Howard clearly perceives as criticism of his own happy-go-lucky attitude.

(As an aside, all of the infighting between the Lakers stars is really a shame. Wouldn't it be nice if we saw a few more instances like this?)

Obviously, Bryant and Howard are a long ways apart on their beliefs about how the other should be acting. As the Lakers continue to struggle on the court, this kind of locker room discord presents a real problem.

Speaking of the Lakers' on-court issues, Bryant weighed in on those, too. And his opinion on the Lakers' use of Pau Gasol can also be viewed as a subtle slight against Howard. Bryant told the Los Angeles Times:

We have to go through [Gasol] a lot, lot more. He needs more on the elbow, more touches on the post. He can make plays for others from down there. He can control the game from down there, and we've got to figure out a way to get him more activated, it's as simple as that. Where are you going to put Dwight? We've got to figure out that spacing but [Gasol] needs to have the ball, for sure.

Bryant has sided with Gasol before, but in the past, it was usually in defense of his teammate in the midst of trade talks or criticism from the media. Here, Kobe's essentially advocating the increased use of Gasol by any means necessary. If that means making Howard a second priority, so be it.

With neither player likely to back down, it's looking more and more like Kobe's take on the viability of two alpha males on the same team has some weight to it.

For the Lakers' sake, they'd better hope the situation between Bryant and Howard deteriorates on the same timetable as the one between Bryant and O'Neal did—after they've won a few championships.