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Dwight Howard Says He Didn't Leave Lakers over Fear of Kobe Bryant

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistOctober 28, 2014

Mar 22, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA;  Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) and center Dwight Howard (12)  in the first half of the game against the Washington Wizards at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant will forever be linked following the Los Angeles Lakers' failed superteam experiment for the 2012-13 season, but it's the former's abrupt departure that continues to linger as a source of perceived tension. 

According to the Los Angeles Daily News' Vincent Bonsignore, Howard is adamant that he didn't bolt for the Houston Rockets because Bryant was too assertive: 

Vincent Bonsignore @DailyNewsVinny

Dwight Howard: "I didn't leave L.A. because I was afraid of Kobe Bryant" #Lakers #Rockets #NBA

Howard's comments did not come unprovoked.

According to ESPN.com's Baxter Holmes, Lakers head coach Byron Scott fired the first shot after speculatively casting doubt over Howard's drive to succeed. 

"My outside perspective is Kobe is a real serious guy and wants to win championships," Scott said. "I don't know if Dwight is that serious about it. I know No. 24 is. I think that probably was the clash."

Furthermore, ESPN The Magazine's Henry Abbott reported last week that Howard wasn't enthused with Bryant's discourse during the team's free-agent pitch two summers ago:

When Howard asked why his teammates let the injured center take all the flak when the Lakers' season went south, [Steve] Nash said he didn't know that Howard had felt that way and that had he known, he would have acted differently. Bryant, on the other hand, offered a crash course in developing thick skin and a mini lecture on learning how to win. Sources told ESPN Insider Chris Broussard that Bryant's lecture was 'a complete turnoff' for Howard.

Bryant passed along the following words to TNT's Rachel Nichols regarding chatter that players stray from signing with the Lakers due to his presence: 

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Rachel Nichols @Rachel__Nichols

http://t.co/yOI4CAxrx5

Whatever the reason for his departure, Howard has been exponentially more content since joining the Rockets. While he was forced to take a backseat to James Harden and Chandler Parsons on offense throughout last season, Howard still thrived to the tune of 18.3 points, 12.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. 

Now with a full season of experience in head coach Kevin McHale's system, Howard is primed to thrive much the way he did during the Rockets' first-round playoff series against the Portland Trail BlazersAs a two-way tour de force, Howard exploded for averages of 26 points, 13.7 rebounds and 2.8 blocks during that six-game stretch. 

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 28:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Houston Rockets catches a pass in front of Jordan Hill #27 of the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on October 28, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and a
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Factor in Parsons' departure to the rival Dallas Mavericks, and Howard could be primed for a return to greatness as he transitions into a new role as Houston's clear-cut No. 2 option on offense and maintains his status as the team's primary defensive stopper. 

Fully recovered from the back surgery that hindered his explosiveness during that trying campaign in purple and gold, Howard appears ready to put petty grievances in the rearview mirror and focus solely on thrusting Houston into the Western Conference's elite realm.

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