The wait is over, as Dwight Howard has agreed to a four-year contract worth $88 million with the Houston Rockets. In the days since the news broke, blame has been placed in countless directions, as the Los Angeles Lakers community appears uncertain as to what went wrong.
Plain and simple, Kobe Bryant isn't the person to blame for Howard's departure.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Bryant and Howard clashed during the 2012-13 NBA regular season. While their lack of chemistry is well-documented, the latest report takes it to another level.
In typical Kobe fashion, he reportedly tore into Howard upon learning that D-12 was speaking behind his back:
Every time you trash me to teammates, it gets back to me, witnesses said Bryant told Howard in the visiting locker room of the FedEx Forum. Every time you do one of your impersonations when I walk out of the room, I find out. Everything tumbled out of Bryant, one grievance after another, and the Lakers coaches and players sat watching the two biggest personas in the room push closer together, or irreconcilably apart.
"Kobe talked to Dwight in a way that I don't think anyone one had ever talked to him – not in Orlando, not here, not in his life, I'm betting," one witness in the room told Yahoo! Sports. "He's been coddled, and Kobe wasn't going to coddle him."
Are we immature enough to label Bryant a villain for defending his name?
Bryant and Howard may have come to verbal blows, and in the end, the idea of playing with Kobe for another season may have been a turnoff. When it comes down to it, however, Bryant's approach to the game wasn't the issue.
It was the Lakers' stubborn nature and unwillingness to target their needs.
Disastrous 2012-13 Season
D-12 entered his tenure with the Lakers with mountains of expectation and unpredictability. From his elite world-class abilities to his character issues, there were polarizing issues that the Lakers expected to deal with throughout the course of the season.
No one expected what happened next.
Howard is far from the person to blame, but L.A. proved that star power is irrelevant when chemistry is absent. It went through three head coaches, struggled to reach .500 and eventually finished 45-37 and was eventually knocked out in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
As was the case during the regular season, however, the Lakers' failure is not to be blamed on Bryant—not their lackluster play and not Howard's departure.
When you have three head coaches in one season—with the interim serving as the most productive of the three—something is wrong at the core of the organization. When your roster is aging and you fail to acquire in the necessary youth to add athleticism, the issue grows stronger.
Placing the blame on one individual is what you call using a scapegoat.
The Truth about Bryant and Howard
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Kobe Bryant attended the Los Angeles Lakers' final meeting with Dwight Howard. During that time, Bryant reportedly told Howard that he would teach him how to win:
"You have to learn how it's done," Bryant told Howard, witnesses described. "I know how to do it and I've learned from the best – players who have won multiple times over and over."
"Instead of trying to do things your way, just listen and learn and tweak it, so it fits you," Bryant told him.
Chris Broussard of ESPN reports that Bryant's pitch was a "complete turnoff."
Per Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, Howard states that he's "already a winner."
Rather than fall into a mindset in which we are appalled at Kobe's statements, let's acknowledge facts. Upon doing so we, may just get to the heart of what Bryant was saying and why it was the right thing to do.
It all starts with a comparison of resumes.
Thus far, Kobe is a five-time NBA champion and two-time NBA Finals MVP. Howard, meanwhile, has made one NBA Finals appearance, losing to Bryant and the Lakers as a member of the Orlando Magic.
Just don't think it's all about how many titles he's won.
Bryant has played the role of right-hand man and franchise player on five separate title teams. For those looking to claim Bryant rode coattails, see Shaquille O'Neal's career resume before Bryant discovered how to be a wingman.
So why wouldn't he pitch that opportunity as a man who has seen both sides of the coin?
If anyone can, Bryant relates to the frustration Howard would feel as a superstar playing second fiddle. He also knows what it takes to overcome that anger and turn it into motivation to be one of the greatest of all time.
Before we start placing blame on Kobe's approach, maybe we should ask one question—was he wrong about anything he was saying he could do for Howard? That answer is no.
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