Much has been written about the poor relationship that existed between Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard during their ill-fated season together in Los Angeles.
To sum it up as succinctly and politely as possible, Bryant is ruthlessly competitive, whereas Howard prefers to take a much lighter approach.
The reality is that from a personality standpoint, Howard simply didn’t fit in with a Lakers organization that values championship contention above all else. That’s probably why Bryant sabotaged the free agent pitch meeting with Howard the team had in the summer of 2013, and even though technically L.A. would have had an All-Star talent to be the face of the team once Bryant was gone, Howard simply isn’t cut out to take on that level of responsibility.
It’s not surprising, then, that Bryant views the Lakers’ failure to retain Howard in free agency as a good thing for the franchise.
Only weeks before his comeback from the Achilles injury ended so abruptly, Bryant signed a two-year, $48.5 million contract that will pay him $25 million next season at age 37. While the arrangement virtually assured that Bryant will retire as a Laker, it also hindered the team’s quest for a free-agent star around whom it could forge a new path once he’s gone. Though Bryant viewed Dwight Howard’s free-agent departure in 2013 as “a positive,” according to a person close to him, the Lakers barely got this past summer’s prime free agents, James and Anthony, to give the franchise a passing thought. Why is that?
This comes from an excellent longform feature on Bryant that is much more balanced than what we’ve seen from other national outlets recently, and is well worth your time.
As to why free agents have passed on L.A. as a destination, it has little to do with Bryant’s contract. Remember, L.A. was the only team that had max money available to sign Carmelo Anthony last summer without needing to make roster moves first.
The fact that Bryant has had two major injuries that limited him to appearing in just six games last season, along with the depleted state of the rest of the Lakers roster are more concrete reasons that free agents would want to play somewhere else. The Lakers, even with another All-Star in place would still be so far from their stated goal of title contention that those looking for a new team can find one much more ready to win now, and can do so fairly easily.
As for Howard, this recent description (from a feature by Michael Lee of the Washington Post) tells us all we need to know about why he and Bryant clashed so strongly.
Before he ripped the bags of ice from his knees, reached for his green, turtle-shell shaped Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle backpack and walked out of a lounge inside the bowels of Toyota Center in his Mickey Mouse T-shirt, Dwight Howard burst into an old Gospel hymn.
It’s clear that Bryant wasn’t at all interested in seeing the Lakers sign on for five more years of that nonsense.