Dwight Howard: ‘I didn’t leave LA because I was afraid of Kobe Bryant’

Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard said Tuesday that his decision to leave the Los Angeles Lakers had nothing to do with Kobe Bryant. “I didn’t leave L.A. because I was afraid of Kobe Bryant,” Howard said Tuesday, according to the Houston Chronicle. “I went to a good situation for myself. I can’t change people’s opinions, but I did what I had to do for myself.” The Lakers host the Rockets Tuesday night at Staples Center. “People have different reasons for why they go play for different teams,” Howard said. “It’s over with now. There’s no need to continue to talk about it. It happened. We played together for a year. The whole team was injured, didn’t really get an opportunity to do what we all set out to do. Things happen. Life happens. I think everybody needs to move forward from the situation and worry about their respective teams.” The post Dwight Howard: ‘I didn’t leave LA because I was afraid of Kobe Bryant’ appeared first on SportsGlory.

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Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard Have Altercation During Season Opener

It’s been a while since Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard were teammates, but apparently there’s no love lost.

In the fourth quarter of the Lakers-Rockets season opener, a 108-90 win for Houston, Bryant and Howard exchanged words after the center grabbed a rebound and things got physical.

It looks as if Howard elbows Bryant in the face.

In response, Kobe may have called the Rockets big man “soft.”

The refs gathered together to sort everything out.

The Lakers provided details on the call.

This is going to be a fun season.

[TNT]

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Kobe Bryant Finds Wesley Johnson with Beautiful No-Look Pass Versus Rockets

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard Kobe Bryant is back.

In the second quarter of the Houston Rockets-Los Angeles Lakers season opener, Bryant drove just outside of the free-throw line before delivering a no-look bullet to teammate Wesley Johnson.

Johnson finished the play with an easy bucket.

Welcome back, Kobe.

[TNT]

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Carmelo Anthony Disputes Notion That He Doesn’t Want to Play with Kobe Bryant

Carmelo Anthony may ultimately have spurned the Los Angeles Lakers during his foray into free agency this offseason, choosing to re-sign with the New York Knicks rather than move across the country and throw on a purple-and-gold uniform. However, his decision didn’t have to do with avoiding Kobe Bryant

“If I thought that was the right situation for me from an overall perspective as far as having a team there, then I would have looked at that situation more in-depth,” the oft-shooting forward told ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne and Ohm Youngmisuk. “I just felt more comfortable staying here in New York. But as far as playing with him…I’m here now but I would always love to play with Kobe.”

The justification is only necessary because of an ESPN the Magazine piece on Bryant, one that sparked up plenty of conversations after anonymous inside figures were quoted as saying the superstar shooting guard was driving away potential free-agent signings. 

Mitch [Kupchak] did his homework,” an unnamed NBA executive told Henry Abbott for that article. “He can’t get a marquee player to play alongside Kobe, cap space be damned.” 

And how about this one from a source close to Lakers decision-makers: 

He wants to win. But only as long as he’s the reason we’re winning, as long as the performance is not affecting his numbers. No one works harder than Kobe. And no one sabotages his own efforts more. He’s scaring off the free agents we’re trying to get. We’re trying to surround you with talent and your ego is getting in the way.

The piece led to quite a few rebuttals from central figures and journalists around the basketball-watching world. Even Phil Jackson, who coached Bryant during his three-peat runs and is now working in the New York front office that re-signed Anthony, is getting involved:

Now, Anthony is the latest to explain that his decision had other motivating factors, ones like the Knicks being a better fit for him. And while he won’t directly say it, the five-year, $124 million contract he signed probably had quite a bit to do with his choice as well. 

The Lakers were the only other team to offer Anthony a full maximum-level contract,” Shelburne and Youngmisuk explain. “Due to the rules of the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement, their offer could only be for four years and $95 million—one year and $29 million less than the Knicks signed Anthony to.”

There were just other factors, as Sean Highkin detailed for NBC Sports

Indeed, it’s hard to pin Anthony’s decision on Bryant. Signing with the Lakers never really made sense for him, and all along it seemed like he let them make their pitch more as a courtesy than out of any serious intention of going there. The two most viable contenders in the Melo sweepstakes both offered something the Lakers couldn’t. The Bulls had the best roster and the clearest path to immediate contention for a championship out of any of the teams vying for his services. The Knicks could offer him more money than anyone else, as well as a fifth year on his contract and long-term security for his family. The Lakers, coming off a disappointing year and figuring to be a lottery team again this season, could offer neither. Melo chose the money, and it’s hard to blame him for it.

Maybe Anthony wanted to play with Bryant, and nothing else about the situation in Tinseltown made sense for him. Maybe he wasn’t completely sold on sharing the rock with another shot-happy superstar, and that factored into his decision. Maybe he didn’t want to play with Anthony, purely for basketball reasons. 

But the notion that Bryant drove off Anthony and scared him away from choosing the Lakers as the next location for his basketball talents? 

The Knicks star won’t agree with that. 

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Dwight Howard Trade Killed Lakers’ Chances of Winning with Kobe Bryant

As big a basketball no-brainer as it seemed for the Los Angeles Lakers to acquire All-Star center Dwight Howard ahead of the 2012-13 season, the trade still required a massive amount of faith.

Specifically, the notion that no one—especially someone of Superman’s stature—would dare refuse to re-up for a fresh tenure the following summer.

“We’re the Lakers,” the thinking seemed to go. “If 16 banners and sun-soaked beaches can’t convince a star to stay, nothing will.”

Twelve months later, Howard—propelled by equal parts drama and economics—headed to the Houston Rockets, leaving the Lakers in a lurch from which they have yet to fully recover.

And so it is that what once would’ve seemed impossible has become, with the hand of hindsight, only too real: The Dwight Howard trade destroyed the Lakers’ chances of winning another title with Kobe Bryant.

Not that there was much margin for error to begin with, of course. Even at 34 years old, the closing of Bryant’s superstar window was already well underway. The Lakers didn’t need high-upside prospects; they needed proven ones, and in Howard and Steve Nash—acquired in an earlier, equally asset-draining trade—they were getting nothing if not two, title-ready talents.

But the pieces never quite clicked, and by the end of the spring of 2013 it had become screamingly obvious that the trio might never strike the desired hardwood harmony. Further complicating matters was the health of Bryant himself, cast into dire doubt following a late-season Achilles injury.

On July 13, 2013, L.A.’s dream of a banner Big Three officially died when Howard signed a four-year, $88 million deal to join James Harden in Houston.

On the surface at least, Bryant was a paragon of unflappability.

“Honestly, man, I don’t really give a s–t,” he told Pro Basketball Talk’s Brett Pollakoff. “If he would have come back, it would have been great. If he didn’t … It is what it is.”

Bryant’s flippancy aside, Howard’s departure didn’t just sting the Lakers’ ego; it derailed what was already the league’s most precarious financial high-wire act.

Hamstrung by the league’s salary cap, L.A. was forced to weather a tumultuous 2013-14 mostly without the oft-injured Nash and Bryant, who suffered another season-ending injury—this time to his right knee—just six games into the slate.

With their salary cap finally loosened heading into the summer, the Lakers were forced to undertake one last two-year plan: land a big-name free agent or two over the next two summers or risk watching Bryant’s twilight dim diminutively into the dark.

One summer down, one to go.

Having whiffed on the likes of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, L.A. resorted instead to reinforcing the fringes—trading for the expiring contract of Jeremy Lin, signing a recently amnestied Carlos Boozer and doubling down on the basketball crapshoot that is Nick Young.

To call the 2014-15 season a wash would be selling the story short. At this point, the Lakers would be lucky just to avoid the Western Conference cellar.

This year’s hopes wholly dashed, the team’s sights now turn to the summers of 2015 and 2016, when stars including Rajon Rondo, Marc Gasol, Kevin Durant and LeBron James could hit the market.

The Lakers’ legacy and forthcoming largesse alone will be enough to make them serious free-agent players. Whether any of them will want to tether their talents and fortunes to a famously mercurial superstar on the wrong side of 35, however, is another question entirely.

Especially when said superstar is slated to make $48.5 million—the terms of Bryant’s late 2013 extension—over the next two seasons.

Defeatist as that may sound, neither is it a baseless observation. Take, for instance, this particularly scathing paragraph from Henry Abbott’s much-discussed expose of the Bryant era for ESPN The Magazine:

So did Kobe Bryant deserve the extension? And if not, why give it? The answer might lie in yet another question: Is it possible the Lakers felt free to squander cap space on the contract because there was no point in having cap space? When you can’t even bribe players to play with Kobe Bryant, what’s the point in bribe money? As one rival front office executive says: ‘I’m sure Mitch already investigated and found out he didn‘t need two max slots because the destination isn’t all that attractive until Kobe has completely left the premises.’

Has the famously perfectionist Bryant become too much to deal with? Such speculation is probably best saved for the media’s more plugged-in practitioners.

This much, though, is beyond doubt: When your team’s championship prospects are hanging by a hair-thin thread, even the residue of drama can be enough to crash the plan entirely.

Which brings us back to Howard, whose departure last summer Bryant deemed a “positive” according to a source quoted in a recent piece by CBS Sports’ Ken Berger.

For a perennial All-Star whose PER has dipped below 20 only thrice in a 10-year career, Howard’s being pegged as a problematic presence speaks to just how caustic he and Bryant’s chemistry had become.

This confronts us with a pair of possibilities: Either Howard’s attitude and motivation were so poor that not even Bryant felt himself capable of reaching him; or Bryant’s trademark taskmaster reputation was simply too much for the typically happy-go-lucky Howard to handle.

In both cases, the implications are dire. If Howard really is that aloof, what does that say about L.A.’s ability to properly identify compatible talent? On the other hand, if Bryant is really that impossible to please, what prospects do the Lakers have of reeling in more top-tier stars?

To suggest the Lakers would’ve contended with an agreeable Howard-Bryant dynamic—to say nothing of a healthy Nash, whose playing days might be officially over—is to speak in the service of speculation.

Looking back, though, it’s hard not to see the Howard trade as the foremost in a freeway-long line of dominoes, all felled to find the Lakers where they are today: desperate, downtrodden, a mere shadow of their once-mighty selves.

The question now becomes whether the franchise brass has the wit and wherewithal to pick them all back up again. All while Kobe’s clock ticks ominously toward zero.

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Byron Scott: Kobe Bryant is serious about championships, Dwight Howard isn’t

The Los Angeles Lakers host the Houston Rockets on Tuesday to open their season, which means Dwight Howard will be in town to face Kobe Bryant and his former team. “I don’t know what Dwight’s motivation is,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said to Los Angeles Daily News’ Mark Medina. “But if I’m guessing, I’m sure he would love to play and beat the crap out of us and have a great game.” Howard has faced the Lakers three times since leaving to sign with the Rockets.  But this will be the first time Bryant and Howard step on the court together in opposing uniforms. “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 and that probably was the clash.” The post Byron Scott: Kobe Bryant is serious about championships, Dwight Howard isn’t appeared first on Sports Glory.

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NBA assistant coach latest person to come out and anonymously savage Kobe Bryant

LeBron James’ triumphant return to Ohio and imminent regular season debut with the Cleveland Cavaliers may be the predominant talker heading into the 2014-15 NBA season, the King’s Cleveland comeback has been overshadowed this week by the controversial piece by Henry Abbott in ESPN The Magazine where several anonymous sources took their turns taking potshots…Read More
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Jeanie Buss Calls out Free Agents Afraid of Kobe Bryant: ‘Losers’

From the not-so-magnanimous media coverage to his much-ballyhooed return from injury, Kobe Bryant has lately found himself under a microscope of nearly unprecedented intensity—and that’s saying something.

Scorching spotlight though it may be, Bryant has at least one stalwart in his corner (via Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post):

Jeannie Buss, for those who don’t know, is the daughter of longtime Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who passed away in February 2013. After the elder Buss’ death, control of the Lakers was essentially divvied up between Jeanie Buss and her brother, Jim.

Since then, speculation has abounded over the two’s relationship, which Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding (writing then for the Orange County Register) reported as far back as 2013 had been severely strained following the awkward Phil Jackson non-hire.

If anything is going to compel the two to circle the family wagons, it’s a full-frontal attack on their franchise’s biggest, most lucrative star. Not to mention the insidious implication that the Lakers are somehow about anything other than winning.

On Monday, ESPN The Magazine published a piece by Henry Abbott that took a not-so-flattering look at Kobe Bryant’s role in the demise of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Key to Abbott’s thesis was the notion that future free agents might be dissuaded from signing with the Lakers due to Bryant’s hypercompetitive, hypercritical personality. In fact, Abbott—quoting an anonymous source—suggests this was likely a motivating factor behind Dwight Howard’s tumultuous departure following the 2012-13 season.

Coming off the team’s worst season in nearly six decades, the Lakers are a team at a crossroads: Do they try and use the upcoming free-agent classes to build around Bryant one last time? Or do they hold off on a rebuild until their ailing legend—injuries to Achilles and knee barely in the rearview mirror—limps languidly into the sunset?

As Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes recently wrote, the looming narratives are nothing if not compelling:

Bryant is the same man—evolved. To use a baseball analogy, he’s pitching instead of throwing these days, replacing physical skill with tactical smarts.

We’ve seen the unstoppable drives, the one-dribble pull-ups, the relentless transition attacks. But we haven’t seen the measured (though still aggressive) post technician. We haven’t seen the guy who might operate almost exclusively as a draw-and-kick facilitator on the block.

When a superstar fundamentally changes his game in an effort to stay on top, well…it’s fascinating.

Even if reports of Bryant’s difficult demeanor are true, that shouldn’t dissuade the Lakers from continuing to pursue free-agent gold; they should be selling the history and legacy of the franchise itself, not its fading face.

Rest assured, the Lakers have no intention of resting on their playoff-less laurels. Not with Kevin Durant, Rajon Rondo and LeBron James all slated to hit the open market within the next two years.

Many will read Buss’s barb as a veiled shot at Howard. Others might see swipes at James or Carmelo Anthony, both of whom bypassed the Lakers en route to richer paydays.

Whoever the target or whatever the intended tone, Jeannie Buss’s harsh words should be seen first and foremost in familial terms—the angered but earnest attempt to protect one’s own from the cruel caustics of the outside world.

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Lakers News: Latest Updates on Kobe Bryant, Xavier Henry and More

The 2014 NBA preseason is quickly coming to a close, and it looks like the Los Angeles Lakers will still be working out quite a few kinks well into the regular season, which begins for the Purple and Gold on Oct. 28 against the Houston Rockets.

Head coach Byron Scott has preached defense all summer long, but the Lakers have put in some shambolic performances on that end of the court during exhibition play. 

Scott hasn’t had much of a chance to put together his optimal lineups due to a litany of injuries and some strategic handling of his aging stars, not to mention an excess of players looking to latch onto this historic organization.

With all eyes set on the regular season, the Lakers’ health and roster shape are the focus of this latest news roundup.

 

Kobe Bryant Sits Out Final Exhibition Games

According to ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Jovan Buha, Scott has elected to sit Bryant for the Lakers’ remaining preseason games.

“I just think he needs some rest,” Scott said on Wednesday, via Buha. “I think he’s shown me enough. I think we’re all pretty happy with where he is.

Sure enough, Bryant was on the bench for the Lakers’ 94-86 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night. In six preseason games, Bryant has averaged 19.0 points, 4.0 assists and 3.0 rebounds in 26.7 minutes per contest.

The Lakers have just one more preseason game left in 2014, an Oct. 24 matchup against the Sacramento Kings.

Fans were treated to some vintage play from Bryant in the Lakers’ 114-108 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday. The Black Mamba poured in 27 points and shot 50 percent from the field. His fadeaway jumper looked sublime and was his go-to move in one-on-one situations.

Bryant’s health is essential to the Lakers’ chances of success this season. His scoring abilities are hardly in doubt, but putting in the hard work on defense every night will take a lot out of him.

Basketball Insiders’ Alex Kennedy noted that general managers around the league still consider Bryant one of the toughest players around:

That doesn’t necessarily mean they still fear his defensive prowess, but it does speak to his importance to the Lakers from both a performance and perception standpoint.

The team will almost certainly be counting on their talismanic guard to work for more than 26 minutes a night, making any early rest that much more important. Scott is wise not to take any further chances with his superstar. Bryant doesn’t have anything left to prove in the preseason.

 

Xavier Henry Seeks Treatment for Knee Injury

One player whom Scott would really like to have back in a defensive stance is small forward Xavier Henry. Unfortunately, he’s been unable to suit up for the Lakers as he recovers from a knee injury suffered in December 2013.

In an effort to return to the hardwood as soon as possible, Henry is seeking out some advanced treatment. ESPN.com’s Baxter Holmes has the story:

In the coming days, the 23-year-old will travel to New York City to see Dr. Keith Pyne for a second opinion. Then Henry will travel to Dusseldorf, Germany, to receive Regenokine treatment from Dr. Jens Hartmann.

Kobe Bryant has had similar Regonkine treatments several times in his career. The noninvasive procedure involves blood being removed from his knee and spun in a centrifuge before doctors create a serum that is then injected back in the knee to fight off proteins and molecules that cause inflammation.

Henry’s absence from play might have been lost in the shuffle considering how many other Lakers have dealt with injuries this offseason. ESPN Los Angeles’ Arash Markazi noted the Lakers had seven players out for their Oct. 21 contest against the Utah Jazz:

Henry’s wingspan, hustle and athleticism make him a valuable asset on defense. It’s certainly disconcerting that an entire offseason of rehab hasn’t resulted in a healthy Henry. Guard Nick Young is recovering from a torn thumb ligament, which means the Lakers could be relying heavily on Wesley Johnson out on the wing to start the season.

Henry played in just 43 games last season because of this knee injury. It’s a long absence from competitive basketball, which could severely limit his effectiveness when he does return to the lineup.

 

Lakers Waive Two Players

If the regular season weren’t right around the corner, one would think the Lakers couldn’t afford to trim players from the roster with so many sitting courtside in street clothes and spending more time on the trainer’s table than on the hardwood.

Alas, cuts have to be made as teams excise the expendables in preparation for the games that count. On Tuesday general manager Mitch Kupchak waived two fringe players, point guard Keith Appling and center Jeremy Tyler, according to a report from NBA.com.

Neither player had much of a chance at securing a spot on the regular-season roster. 

The Lakers already have a deep reserve of frontcourt players, especially at center. Jordan Hill looks set to start at that position, with Robert Sacre and Ed Davis rotating in at the 5-spot. In fact, Scott recently stated that Davis will be playing center and center only to start the season, per Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times. This left no need for Tyler on the roster.

Appling, a point guard, suffered a shoulder injury in the Lakers’ second preseason game and hardly played, per Pincus. The Lakers already have floor generals in Jeremy Lin, Steve Nash and rookie Jordan Clarkson.

Should Nash struggle with injuries this season, Appling could be one of the first names Kupchak looks up in his Rolodex due to his (admittedly brief) time spent with the team this fall.

These cuts leave the likes of Ronnie Price, Roscoe Smith, Jabari Brown and Wayne Ellington to fight for the final spots on the roster.

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Exposing Kobe Bryant Exposes the “Winner” Myth

ESPN’s Henry Abbott wrote a scathing piece on Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, attributing the royal franchise’s barren free agency exploits of last summer and repeated inability to acquire big name talent to the icon’s alpha-male presence.
The piece read like a barely authorized glimpse into the NBA’s underworld, a piecemeal compilation of backroom meetings and firsthand accounts. The anonymous sources in Abbott’s article threw shots at the 5 time champion with the same calculated venom he’d use to ice a 17-footer with three seconds left.
After a tumultuous NBA adolescence, Kobe had nursed a renewed, almost regal reputation in the last few years. After the Kobe-Shaquille O’Neal era went up in dust with Shaq’s exodus to the Miami Heat, Bryant went on to two more NBA titles. He was the old pro, taking on all new challengers. He was the last remnant of bygone basketball. He was the closest thing to Michael Jordan’s iron-willed do…

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