How will Kobe Bryant-Dwight Howard season-opening showdown turn out?

Houston's Dwight Howard will square off against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in the team's season opener Oct. 28 at Staples Center. Photo credit: ANDY HOLMZMAN — STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Houston’s Dwight Howard will square off against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in the team’s season opener Oct. 28 at Staples Center. Photo credit: ANDY HOLMZMAN — STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

The tension rose at times Kobe Bryant shot the ball and Dwight Howard scoffed at his role. The arguments escalated in an infamous mid-season meeting in Memphis in which Bryant confronted Howard both about Howard’s indirectly critical comments about Bryant and his dissatisfaction about how the Lakers featured him. The philosophical differences emerged again when Howard believed the Lakers did not credit him enough for playing through recent back surgery, while Bryant and others believed Howard’s attitude only perpetuated his struggles.

Yes, the Bryant and Howard duo featured plenty of drama, something that paled only to the contentious relationship Bryant had with Shaquille O’Neal. But unlike that pairing, Bryant and Howard never won an NBA title together. Instead, Bryant tore his left Achilles tendon three games before the 2012-13 regular season ended and Howard pulled a disappearing act in the Lakers’ first-round sweep to the San Antonio Spurs. Howard then quickly jetted to the Houston Rockets as a free agent.

Incidentally, the Lakers’ season opener Oct. 28 against the Houston Rockets at Staples Center will mark the first time Bryant and Howard took the floor together since Bryant injured his Achilles on April 13, 2013. Considering their acrimonious feelings toward each other, how will the Bryant and Howard showdown materialize?

That became one of several topics Time Warner Cable Access SportsNet host Chris Geeter, analyst Dave Miller and I addressed Wednesday to preview the schedule release of the Lakers’ 2014-15 season. As much as Bryant will stay more focused on the actual game, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bryant tried to dunk over Howard in the same fashion the Lakers’ star did during Howard’s rookie season in Orlando nearly a decade ago. Miller dismissed my theory, and hilarity ensued as we provided some spirited albeit light-hearted give and take.

But what say you? How will the Bryant-Howard dynamic play out? Will they exchange pleasantries, scowl at each other or just pass up any chance to interact? Will either Bryant and Howard attempt to show up the other? Or will both players remain fixated on just helping their team win? More importantly, which team will come out on top?

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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Lakers to play in Chicago on Christmas Day

Kobe Bryant has missed nearly the entire 2013-14 season. His return to health is key to the Lakers' immediate future. But it's anyone's guess whether he can overcome the latest injuries and be effictive again. Photo by David Crane/Staff Photographer

Kobe Bryant has missed nearly the entire 2013-14 season. His return to health is key to the Lakers’ immediate future. But it’s anyone’s guess whether he can overcome the latest injuries and be effictive again. Photo by David Crane/Staff Photographer

For once, the Lakers might actually experience a White Christmas. They have played on Christmas Day for 15 consecutive seasons, a testament both to the Lakers’ past success and unmatched brand even amid recently tumultuous years. But instead of playing in the friendly confines of Staples Center, the Lakers will spend their Christmas on the road for the first time since the 2005-06 season. Then, the Lakers will face the Chicago Bulls, facing Pau Gasol for the first time since leaving the Lakers this offseason. Incidentally, the Lakers will then travel to Dallas the following night.

The Lakers will also host Chicago at Staples Center on Jan. 29 at Staples Center, which would likely feature a tribute to Gasol for helping them win NBA championships in 2009 and 2010. That reception will juxtapose the inevitable boos Lakers fans will shower Houston’s Dwight Howard (opening night on Oct. 28) two years after leaving the purple and gold. Or the possible feeling of disappointment when Carmelo Anthony comes to Los Angeles wearing a New York Knicks uniform (March 12) and when LeBron James and Kevin Love don a Cleveland Cavaliers outfit instead of the purple and gold get up (Jan. 15). Speaking of the Cavaliers, Byron Scott will also face the former team he coached for three seasons on Feb. 8, bringing a unpleasant reminder of his 64-166 record there through three seasons following James’ initial departure.
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ESPN predicts Lakers will finish 12th in Western Conference

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love, left, drives against Los Angeles Lakers forward Jordan Hill, right, during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game in Minneapolis, Friday, March 28, 2014. The Timberwolves won 143-107. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love, left, drives against Los Angeles Lakers forward Jordan Hill, right, during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game in Minneapolis, Friday, March 28, 2014. The Timberwolves won 143-107. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

So much has changed for the Lakers this offseason, a flurry of activity in the past four months keeping them just as busy during an otherwise tumultuous year.

Mike D’Antoni resigned, and four months later, Byron Scott became the head coach. The Lakers have reported Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash to feel healthier. Some players left (Pau Gasol, Jodie Meeks, Jordan Farmar, Kent Bazemore, Chris Kaman). Some players stayed (Nick Young, Jordan Hill, Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson, Ryan Kelly). Some newcomers arrived (Jeremy Lin, Julius Randle, Ed Davis, Carlos Boozer).

But it appears ESPN sees those moves as nothing more than rearranging the chairs of a sinking ship, a panel of media memberss collectively predicting the Lakers will finish 12th in the Western Conference. That marked the same pre-season ranking the Lakers received last season. Despite public outcry from Kobe Bryant and the rest of his supporting cast, it turns out that ranking proved too generous. The Lakers eventually finished with a 27-55 mark, putting them 14th in the Western Conference and earning the unenviable title of a team that holds the worst record in L.A. franchise history.
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Kobe Bryant hands-on with Nike clinic in China

The screaming elation for Kobe Bryant heightened with each highlight-reel jumper and cross over he performed. Bryant’s mere presence also lifted a nation that seeks inspiration from his overflowing talent and work ethic.

But as Bryant recently spent time in Shanghai, China as part of the Nike RISE campaign, it appears his impact at the clinics go beyond his celebrity and skills. He also spends time teaching them critical skills to revamp their game. The videos highlighted in this post show Bryant providing instruction in various facets.

Bryant showed one player how to operate in the post using his footwork and various counter moves. Bryant demonstrated to another player how to master playing with a defensive stance. Of course, Bryant also relished competing one-on-one with several players, both to showcase his superiority and provide a blueprint on how to win.

“I wasn’t the fastest one,” Bryant said in a video interview. “I wasn’t the most athletic one. So I had to learn, deal with and play with what I had. That really helped my skill level. Then eventually I grew. And eventually I became faster. Then I had the skills to go along with that.”

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Byron Scott believes Kobe Bryant will “surprise a lot of people this year”

Kobe Bryant

The accomplishments on Kobe Bryant’s basketball resume provides every indication he can stay on the mountaintop of greatness. His five NBA championships provides various flash points in his career that involved temporarily co-existing with another star (Shaquille O’Neal) and morphing into a more established leader amid a dependable supporting cast (Pau Gasol). Bryant’s fourth-place ranking on the NBA’s all-time scoring list shows his consistent ability to score in too many ways to count. His extensive pain threshold suggests the same.

Yet, Bryant enters the 2014-15 season with fair skepticism on how he will play namely because of the unprecedented challenges that await him. How does he stay healthy after suffering significant injuries to his left Achilles tendon and left knee that kept him sidelined last season for all but six games? How does Bryant return to an elite level after not playing a competitive basketball game in nearly nine months? How does Bryant find any degree of balance in maximizing his play without putting too much burden on his body?

Lakers coach Byron Scott remains mindful of those concerns. But in a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSeJBzJwlwM" interview with Fox Sports Live, Scott conveyed optimism about Bryant’s fortunes after seeing a recent series of his individual workouts.

“It fuels his fire when people are doubting him,” Scott said. Championships fuel his fire. Kobe is going to surprise a lot of people this year.”

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Byron Scott does Q/A session on Lakers Twitter feed; says coaching staff will ‘probably’ be complete in a week

Byron Scott said he agreed to coach the Lakers next season. AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Byron Scott said he agreed to coach the Lakers next season. AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

On Friday afternoon, the Lakers Twitter account was taken over by new head coach Byron Scott for a Q/A session with fans using the #AskByron hashtag. The new Los Angeles skipper took questions for close to an hour. Here are the ten best responses from Scott:

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NBA Rookies do AMA on Reddit; Lakers rookie Julius Randle does not disappoint

 Kentucky forward Julius Randle dons a Los Angeles Lakers cap after being selected seventh overall by the Lakers during the 2014 NBA draft, Thursday, June 26, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Kentucky forward Julius Randle dons a Los Angeles Lakers cap after being selected seventh overall by the Lakers during the 2014 NBA draft, Thursday, June 26, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

The NBA rookie class participated in an AMA on Reddit Sunday (for those non-Redditors, AMA stands for Ask Me Anything) and a couple questions asked were answered by Lakers rookie Julius Randle, who stole the thread.

Randle took questions on Rookie of the Year awards, his NBA 2K rating and playing with Kobe Bryant.

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Magic Johnson on Byron Scott: ‘We chose the right coach.’

Magic Johnson (pictured speaking at Cal State Long Beach) said he is thrilled with the hiring of Byron Scott as the Lakers new head coach.  Photo by Steve McCrank/Daily Breeze

Magic Johnson (pictured speaking at Cal State Long Beach) said he is thrilled with the hiring of Byron Scott as the Lakers new head coach.
Photo by Steve McCrank/Daily Breeze

When Byron Scott joined the Los Angeles Lakers in 1983 he was the fourth overall pick in that year’s draft out of Arizona State. After three years with the Sun Devils, he left as the school’s all-time leading scorer and a second-team All-American selection.

That meant nothing to his teammates.

“When we brought him in, we didn’t speak to him,” former teammate and Laker legend Magic Johnson said Tuesday at Scott’s press conference introducing him as the team’s new head coach. “He was a just a college kid. So we wouldn’t speak to him, and we wouldn’t sit with him. He would have to go sit by himself at lunch and dinner. We smacked him and elbowed him because we wanted to understand what we were getting.”

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Byron Scott confident he can coexist with Kobe Bryant

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, right, looks to pass around Indiana Pacers forward Paul George in an NBA basketball game in March 2013.  Bryant played only six games last season. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, right, looks to pass around Indiana Pacers forward Paul George in an NBA basketball game in March 2013. Bryant played only six games last season. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

In 1996, an 18-year-old Kobe Bryant just starting his NBA career, shared a sideline with Byron Scott, who was ending his own. Faded photos almost two decades old show the pair sitting next to each other on the sideline, dressed in bright yellow warm up suits: the rookie and the veteran.

This season, they will be the aging superstar and the new coach.

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