Is Kobe Bryant Questioning Dwight Howard's Toughness?

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Is Kobe Bryant Questioning Dwight Howard's Toughness?
Harry How/Getty Images

If Kobe Bryant has any desire to play with Dwight Howard beyond this season, he certainly has a funny way of showing it.

After powering the L.A. Lakers to a gritty road victory over the Brooklyn Nets, Bryant relayed his concerns over the injury suffered by Pau Gasol. But he also took yet another opportunity to lay into teammate Dwight Howard by questioning his toughness and ability to play through pain.

 

UPDATE: Thursday, Feb. 7, at 1:55 p.m. ET by Dan Favale

A video of Howard, Kobe and Steve Nash discussing Howard's injury and ability to play can be seen below.

Howard, Kobe and Nash all weigh in on the big man's injury.

They say actions speak louder than words, but these words are pretty strong, so let's see how this latest development pans out.

--End of update--


UPDATE: Thursday, Feb. 7, at 11:40 a.m. ET by Dan Favale

Kobe has done it again.

Along the lines of what ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst first reported, Bryant has once again urged Howard to play through his shoulder injury, telling Jackie MacMullan of ESPNBoston.com:

We don't have time for (Howard's shoulder) to heal. We need some urgency. ...

Dwight worries too much about what people think. I told him, "You can't worry about that. It's holding you back." He says, "OK, OK, OK," but it's always hovering around him.

The urgency Kobe mentions undoubtedly relates to the absence of Pau Gasol, who will be sidelined at least six weeks with a partially torn plantar fascia, per Ken Berger of CBSSports.com.

With Gasol out, the Lakers can't afford to not have Howard anchoring the low post if they wish to contend, something Bryant urges Howard to understand:

(Howard) has never been in a position where someone is driving him as hard as I am, as hard as this organization is. It's win a championship or everything is a complete failure. That's just how (the Lakers) do it. And that's foreign to him.

Will Howard heed Kobe's plea, or will he continue to remain a foreigner in his own locker room?

Stay tuned.

---End of update---


Shots Fired

According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, Bryant said of Howard:

He's probably worried about the damage in his shoulder. I don't think he's ever had to play through injuries in his career. I think it's a new experience for him. ...

Dwight has never been hurt. The [back injury last season] was debilitating and he couldn't play. When you have an injury that hurts you but you can play through it that's something you have to balance out and manage and he's never really had to do that.

We now know that Bryant's worries about Gasol were well-founded, as the Spaniard could miss up to six weeks, according to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com.

Kobe, Howard and Nash all weigh in on the big man's toughness.

But outside of trying to motivate Howard by antagonizing him—a strategy that hasn't yet proved effective—it's hard to see the sense in Kobe's approach here. Bryant's exhortations, delivered through the media, feel more like frustrated mini-tantrums than team-oriented motivation.

 

Does Not Play Well With Others

Of course, this isn't the first we've heard of Bryant calling out his teammates.

He publicly chastised Pau Gasol earlier this season in his now-famous "big-boy pants" speech, as reported by Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Before that, Bryant took shots at former teammate Smush Parker, seemingly just for fun.

And then there's Howard, whom Bryant can't seem to leave alone.

The New York Daily News reported earlier this season that the two nearly came to blows, and despite Bryant's claims that he's trying his best to make things work with Howard on the court, he's certainly not making the same effort off the hardwood.

 

Right and Wrong

It's hard not to sympathize with Bryant, as crazy as that sounds.

Clearly, he desperately wants to win and can't understand or tolerate anyone who doesn't operate with the same obsessive drive. Because Howard seems to care so much about his public image, and because he hasn't appeared particularly committed to winning as a Laker, Bryant is, understandably, at the end of his rope.

A reasonable person should know that belittling and emasculating Howard by questioning his toughness won't work, but Bryant is hardly a reasonable person when it comes to issues of winning.

It's entirely possible that Howard isn't playing through pain like Bryant would (and has), but Kobe has to realize that the type of guy who won't answer the bell when he's nicked up is the same type of guy who won't respond well to aggressive confrontations.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Technically, Bryant's latest statements about Howard are accurate; he hasn't ever had a major operation before this past offseason, and the only serious issue he's ever had was the back problem that precipitated his surgery.

In short, Bryant's probably right about Howard. But it seems like he's going about motivating him the wrong way.

Or is he?

 

The Endgame

Bryant's persistent attacks on Howard may result in the center packing his bags this offseason. Considering D12's uninspiring play this year, his growing injury history and his apparent lack of killer instinct, maybe that's what Kobe's going for.

Bryant is intolerant of players who don't want to win. Kobe seems to view Howard as one of those players, so perhaps he's being so frank because he knows one of two things will ultimately happen: Either Howard shapes up (unlikely), or he leaves town and the Lakers bring somebody else into the fold who'll go to war with Bryant.

Maybe Kobe knows what he's doing after all.

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