The Dwight Howard era in Los Angeles was a disaster on practically every level. The team fell short of expectations during the season, they were swept out of the first round of the playoffs and Howard didn’t get along with Kobe Bryant. He left for Houston in free agency after one season.
There are lots of theories as to why the most talented big man in the NBA didn’t work out with the Lakers, but the most common one is that Howard’s lighthearted attitude clashed with Bryant’s ultra-serious personality. New Lakers head coach Byron Scott agrees with that. From the LA Daily News‘ Mark Medina:
“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.”
Half of that is absolutely true. As has been documented in countless places, Bryant has a psychotic desire to win. It’s what drives him, and it’s what makes him one of the greatest players in the game’s history. But characterizing Howard as “not serious about winning” because he lacks that singular, obsessive focus is unfair. It’s possible to be serious about winning and also enjoy having fun.
Howard struggled in the 2012-13 season with the Lakers in large part because he came back too early from back surgery that was supposed to keep him out through December. He was clearly a shell of himself physically. His differing approach from Kobe didn’t help things, but if he had been healthy, things would have likely worked out better. It just wasn’t a good fit given the circumstances.