Dwight Howard on Playing with Kobe Bryant: "It Was Very Tough"

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Dwight Howard on Playing with Kobe Bryant:

In his first face-to-face interview since announcing his decision to leave the Los Angeles Lakers for the Houston Rockets, it appeared that Dwight Howard was on a mission to clear his name.

From challenging the public perception that he is a "quitter" to removing himself of any association with last year's early season firing of Mike Brown, the conversation quickly got interesting once Kobe Bryant's name came up.

And, though his words appeared in earnest to downplay the perceived friction between the two, the insistence that playing with the five-time NBA champion had no bearing on his decision may have been just as telling.

"Was it tough playing with Kobe? Yeah, it was very tough," Howard acknowledged. "But playing with Kobe didn't have any part on my decision of going to Houston."

As ESPN's Israel Gutierrez noted in a column last week, the volume of criticism that has followed Howard of late has been reminiscent to the fallout faced by LeBron James in the aftermath of the infamous "Decision" telecast in 2010. Making matters all the more grave for Howard, his image had already hit a low point prior to the recent announcement.

According to a survey conducted during the spring and provided via Sean Deveney of the Sporting News, of the majority of self-labeled sports fans who recognized Howard, more than half had a unfavorable view of him.  

One can only imagine that moving on to his third team in as many years, particularly in the indecisive manner that he has already come to be known for, has only diminished an ever-so-dampening brand. 

Moreover, as it relates to Bryant, it may have been Howard's intention to dispel the notion that his decision was made partly out of spite due to their rocky relationship. 

Reports of dissension between the two leaked all season long last year, with Kobe's no-nonsense, confrontational disposition a clear yin to Howard's playful, passive-aggressive yang.

That reality apparently remained true until the bitter end, as Kobe's final pitch to Howard during free agency came laced with the same brutal candor that has come to define his style of leadership. 

In one of the more honest moments of the interview, Howard appeared to abandon his poker face when addressing the topic of Kobe unfollowing him on twitter. It was the only point, in fact, when Howard had to actually look away, before casually dismissing the severity of it.

As someone who has been known to use passive-aggressiveness to vent his frustrations, Howard may have been all-too-familiar with the tactic to bite on its venomous intent. 

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