They may have argued over each other’s roles. Dwight Howard may have griped about Kobe Bryant’s shot selection or the Lakers’ star questioning his injury. Bryant may have griped about how Howard handles adversity and his belief that his charismatic personality clouds his overall focus.
But the tension between Bryant and Howard never reached the level Bryant once shared with Shaquille O’Neal. That’s why Howard hardly hesitated in visiting Bryant at his Newport Beach home days after suffering a season-ending torn left Achilles’ tendon. It turns out that marked a turning point in the pair’s relationship.
“I think having Dwight come over at that time, really strengthened our bond. He went through a situation where his back surgery, he was all by himself,” Bryant said. “He had nobody there for him. I think he sees … me going through this and doesn’t want me to experience the same thing that he experienced. I see that, I understand that and I respect that. My love for him grew a lot that day.”
So much that Bryant even plans to invite Howard to his home in the next few months as he makes his pitch for the Lakers center to re-sign with the Lakers.
He would earn $117.9 million with a five-year deal if he signs with the Lakers. He would receive $87.9 million over four years if he goes elsewhere.
“From a business standpoint it makes more sense, both contractually and also perception-wise,” Bryant said. “A lot of things go well for you if you win here.”
Still, Bryant doesn’t want Howard to come to that conclusion just because said so. Bryant wants Howard to think that way on his own.
“If you feel a certain way, voice it. There’s nothing wrong with that,” Bryant said. “You can’t please everybody. There’s going to be people who love you and people who don’t like you.”
“Allow people to judge you for who you are. If they don’t see really who you are, then they’re not really judging you fairly,” Bryant continued. “If you think I’m [a jerk], at least let me be [a jerk] and then you can judge for yourself.”
Howard had taken step this season to do that.
In hopes to avoid duplicating last year’s circus in Orlando, Howard hasn’t publicly stated his preference on staying with the Lakers in hopes that he’s not misleading anyone. Howard also has refused to change his inviting personality despite please from many NBA analysts to do so. But Howard believes he still has plenty of work to do to show he’s independent.
“I’m going to be myself now,” Howard said. “I think that’s the way I should have been all year, not anybody let me change who I am as a person. [If] I’m going to smile and be a big kid, smile and be a big kid. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
There’s also nothing wrong with Howard paying a visit to support his teammate and expressing sympathy after remaining limited last offseason because of back surgery.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org