Kobe Bryant again has urged Dwight Howard to play through some pain while claiming that the Los Angeles Lakers’ center “worries too much” about media and fan criticism.
Howard has missed the past three games because of a torn labrum in his shoulder, aggravating an injury he initially suffered earlier this season.
“We don’t have time for (Howard’s shoulder) to heal,” Bryant said Wednesday in an exclusive interview with ESPNBoston.com’s Jackie MacMullan. “We need some urgency.”
The interview with MacMullan came one day after Bryant publicly challenged Howard, stating that playing through an injury is “something that you have to balance out and manage.”
Bryant also asserted that Howard is preoccupied with how he is perceived by fans and media.
“Dwight worries too much about what people think,” Bryant told MacMullan. “I told him, ‘You can’t worry about that. It’s holding you back.’ He says, ‘OK, OK, OK,’ but it’s always hovering around him. “
Dwight worries too much about what people think. I told him, ‘You can’t worry about that. It’s holding you back.’ He says, ‘OK, OK, OK,’ but it’s always hovering around him. He just wants people to like him. He doesn’t want to let anyone down, and that gets him away from what he should be doing.
— Kobe Bryant on Dwight Howard
“He just wants people to like him. He doesn’t want to let anyone down, and that gets him away from what he should be doing.”
Bryant also speculated that Howard, in his first season with Los Angeles, may not be accustomed to the Lakers’ standards.
“(Howard) has never been in a position where someone is driving him as hard as I am, as hard as this organization is,”
Bryant told MacMullan.
“It’s win a championship or everything is a complete failure. That’s just how (the Lakers) do it. And that’s foreign to him.
“When you think about it, there aren’t many organizations that look at it that way. There are only two that can really honestly say that’s what they live by — Los Angeles and Boston.”
Howard preached patience in a recent interview with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, pointing to the fact that Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal needed three years before winning a championship with the Lakers.
But the 34-year-old Bryant, who is averaging 27.6 points per game in his 17th NBA season, is approaching this season with more desperation.
“We don’t have three years,” Kobe said. “We’ve got this year.”
Howard is listed as day to day, and his status is uncertain for Thursday’s game against the Boston Celtics.
The Lakers are hopeful Gasol’s injury will prompt Howard to return “sooner than later,” a team source told ESPNLosAngeles.com.
Today Dwight responds..
It falls on Howard’s shoulder, the one with a torn labrum he has struggled to play through. And the bad back that hasn’t been right all season. He’s been out the last three games because of the shoulder. Kobe Bryant decided to push Howard in a very Kobe and very public way, saying the team needs him and to just suck it up.
Howard didn’t like that at all, and shot back at shootaround in Boston Thursday. Howard went through shootaround but is a game-time decision tonight. Here is what Howard said, via Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com. On Kobe telling him to play:
“That’s his opinion. That’s it. He’s not a doctor, I’m not a doctor.”’
“”I want to play, I mean, why wouldn’t I want to play? But, at the same time, this is my career, this is my future, this is my life. I can’t leave that up to anybody else because nobody else is going to take care of me. So, if people are pissed off that I don’t play or if I do play, whatever it may be, so what? This is my career. If I go down, then what? Everybody’s life is going to go on. I don’t want to have another summer where I’m rehabbing and trying to get healthy again. I want to come back and have another great year. That’s what I want to do.”
For his first seven years in the league Howard was basically injury free, missing just four games. But the last couple years have been a struggle for the 27-year-old physically and he is struggling to deal with this.
My feeling is Kobe’s message got through, Howard will play against the Celtics. But how many more games before he aggravates that shoulder again? Can he really play through it and be effective? Can he lead the Lakers on the defensive end?
As I have said before, at the start of the season it was a lock Howard would re-sign with the Lakers this summer. Now I think it’s still likely, but that lock is open and other teams are going to try to push through that door.