Chris Strauss, USA TODAY Sports
Shockingly, Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant may not be getting along in Los Angeles.
Accordingly to a New York Daily News report, the pair nearly started the New Year by getting into an altercation, with teammates having to restrain Howard from going after Bryant in the locker room following a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
A league source told the Daily News that the Lakers stars got into a heated exchange following a New Year's Day loss to the 76ers, and Bryant went for a low blow - referencing and agreeing with Shaquille O'Neal's criticisms of Howard being soft.
The comedy of Bryant using O'Neal's words to back up an argument aside, exactly what did the Lakers think they were mixing together here? There's been enough documentation of Howard's deceptive destruction in Orlando last season, but then you combine that "What, me worry?" attitude with Bryant's single-minded competitiveness and surly demeanor and expect it to work?
Now you've got a team that is 15-18, on their second coach of the season, trying to incorporate a healthy Steve Nash as well as dealing with an invisible and sad Pau Gasol.
Howard alluded to the team's "chemistry issues" in an ESPN Los Angeles story Saturday but at no point did he or Bryant, who was also quoted, mention any sort of previous locker room skirmish. The author of the piece, Ramona Shelburne, tweeted that two Lakers sources "adamantly shot down the reported Dwight/Kobe incident. One said, 'it's simply not true.'"
Via ESPN Los Angeles:
"We have to play like we like each other. Even if we don't want to be friends off the court, whatever that may be, when we step in between the lines or we step in the locker room or the gym, we have to respect each other and what we bring to the table," Howard said. "It really starts off the court. I think you have to have that relationship and that chemistry off the court for it to really blossom on the court. It takes time to develop that. You just don't come together and then expect to be best friends right away. It just doesn't happen like that."
The one person who probably could have gotten this team to play together, Phil Jackson, is likely busy filling out his registry for upcoming nuptials to the team owner's daughter.
But if there's another person who is clearly happy to not be a part of this circus, it's former Lakers center Andrew Bynum. Any time you can roll into a top steakhouse wearing sweatpants and slippers, you're clearly relishing the delicious taste of freedom.