The first game between the two teams was already set up to be a key affair following Dwight Howard's decision to leave behind a purple-and-gold jersey in favor of a red-and-white one, but it could become an even more heated contest if MWP's words have validity.
In an interview with the Hallmark Channel he gave while at Universal Studies, the recently amnestied small forward said the following, as reported by the Los Angeles Daily News' Mark Medina:
Dwight did have some flaws just like anybody. Everybody has flaws. But Dwight just wanted to be comfortable. He wasn’t comfortable [here]. But once that happened [with Bryant's comments], I knew Dwight wasn’t coming back. I knew he wasn’t going to come back.
The comments World Peace is referring to came in an interview Kobe Bryant gave to NBA.com, one in which he said, "I feel pretty damn confident I can be at a high level for at least another three years."
Howard has always been a player who needs to feel the support of a fanbase, and that's never easier than when functioning as the unquestioned face of the franchise. Should he have agreed upon a return to L.A., he never would have experienced the feeling with Kobe still on the roster and playing at a high level.
Well, Bryant's words left no room for doubt.
If the Mamba thinks he can play at a high level for at least three more years, he can probably do exactly that.
Greatness from the shooting guard and Howard are not mutually exclusive entities, even if the 2012-13 season did its darnedest to prove that statement false. However, World Peace is convinced that their presences on the L.A. roster are.
In the mind of the former Laker, Bryant's claim effectively ended the Lakers' chances of retaining D12. Add in the icy relationship between the two stars, and World Peace may very well have a point.
Then again, a central figure in this story has denied these claims:
Whom do you believe, Dwight or World Peace?