The only dialogue Kobe Bryant professed to have had with Dwight Howard after their disappointing first season happened a “couple of weeks ago.” Then, Bryant recalled Wednesday in an interview with 710 ESPN that the conversation merely centered on making small talk regarding his summer and how his health feels. It sounds like Bryant hasn’t made the aggressive pitch yet on why he wants Howard to resign with the Lakers.
“I know he has a big decision to make and I’m sure he’ll take the visits and talk to the players with the teams he’s considering,” Bryant said. “We’ll touch base a lot more.”
Once Howard becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1, he plans to test the market. Then, he will likely hear from teams, such as the Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors and possibly more on why Howard should join their team. Bryant has said he wants to wait so he can have the last word to ensure no stone remains left unturned during Howard’s various free agency pitches.
“You have to look at it from a business perspective as well as from your career’s point of view with what team you’ll have the most success with and win championships,” Bryant said. “It’s hard because a lot of times those two things don’t align. That’s where you have to make split decisions and wind up splitting hairs some of the time. But you have to put your business hat on too. I know it’s not a very popular thing for athletes to do at times. But you have to.”
Bryant would know.
He criticized the Lakers front office for not assembling enough talent after trading Shaquille O’Neal in 2004, resulting in a missed playoff berth in 2005 followed by two first-round exits to the Phoenix Suns. Bryant’s frustration boiled so much that he even demanded the Lakers trade him in 2007. The Lakers held firm, though, and former owner Jerry Buss soon talked him out of wanting to leave at the 11th hour.
“I bet on Dr. Buss being able to do what he said he could,” Bryant said. “Ultimately that was it. The history of the franchise, the history of what he’s done and what he’s accomplished. I would’ve been a fool to go anyplace else.”
That’s because Bryant then won two NBA championships after the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies in 2008. But the Lakers are far removed from that recent success, bowing out of the playoffs early for the third consecutive season. The Lakers also have a veteran-laden roster with uncertainty how the front office will handle things following Buss’ passing. Howard also encountered frustrations last season with Mike D”Antoni’s system and Bryant’s demanding leadership style.
Yet, Bryant plans on talking with Howard soon to assuage any apprehension he might have in wearing purple and gold.
“It’s not like you have guys like Dwight Howard walking around every day,” Bryant said. “Those guys are hard to find. They don’t grow on trees. When you have somebody like that with his talent level, you have to be able to keep him and lock him in with this franchise, especially with the history this franchise has with having great centers. In my opinion, it would be the perfect spot for him.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org