Dwight Howard is about to begin his second stint in Los Angeles.
The eight-time All-Star is returning to Los Angeles with the expectation of helping the Lakers win a championship. It’s not all that different from his first stint back in 2012-13, except there’s one major difference — he’s not the franchise player.
Howard’s first stint in Los Angeles gave him a bad reputation around the NBA — something that continues to linger to this day. During an interview with Graham Bensinger on “In Depth with Graham Bensinger” that will debut this week, Howard addressed his tumultuous relationship with Kobe Bryant.
For those that don’t remember, Howard was at the center of criticism from Kobe — even as he was playing through a torn labrum in February of 2013. The veteran center acknowledges that Bryant’s criticism upset him at the time.
Dwight vividly details his first game back from a torn labrum and the criticism from Bryant that followed the February 2013 game against the Boston Celtics.
Dwight: Playing with a torn labrum is no joke. A lot of guys who have surgeries, they miss a whole season. And I played every game except six with a torn labrum. And I remember that day like it was yesterday.
Graham: What about it?
Dwight: Just the whole day was crazy. Just seeing what the media was saying, and, ‘Did you ask Kobe about your injury?’ … and I’m like, ‘This doesn’t add up. It’s like, somebody’s trying to sell a story that’s not true.’ So, it did affect me at the time… I wasn’t really ready [to play], but I wanted to shut people up.
Graham: How much did [Kobe’s] comments bother you?
Dwight: … I was upset that he would do that ’cause I would expect him to just protect his teammate… But it’s OK. Everything happens for a reason. I needed that lesson. I needed to learn something from it: To develop thicker skin.
Follow the Heavy on Lakers Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!
Kobe Bryant Put Pressure on Dwight Howard to Play Through Injury
For context, Bryant basically put pressure on Howard to play through injury. Keep in mind, the Lakers vastly struggled before the All-Star break as they trailed the Houston Rockets by 3 1/2 games for the eighth and final playoff spot entering the break.
During an interview with Jackie MacMullan of ESPN back in 2016, Howard addressed exactly what transpired at the time.
“Kobe put some pressure on me,” he said. “He said something like, ‘We don’t have time for Dwight to be hurt.’ The media is asking me, ‘Did you talk to Kobe about your injuries?’ I said, ‘I didn’t realize I was supposed to check with another player about my health.’
I just felt like it wasn’t a team,” he said. “I wanted a team. There were things that went on during the season that made me feel like I wasn’t a part of it, like the thing with Kobe and my shoulder. People were saying, ‘Dwight’s so strong, he’s Superman, he should play through it.’ It was a torn labrum. I should have had surgery, but I didn’t. I came back instead. I’ll never forget the game we played against the Celtics in Boston [on Feb. 7, 2013]. I hadn’t practiced for a while—I had just been working on the treadmill. But I played in Boston. We got blown out. Coach [Mike D’Antoni] still had me in when we were down 30.”
Dwight Howard Has Chance to Make People Forget About Past
Entering the 2019-20 season, Howard is much older and no longer a superstar. However, he’s still a productive player that will enter the season as the Lakers’ starting center. Although he’s no longer the face of the franchise, that doesn’t mean he’s not valuable.
Seven years later, the goal remains the same — to help lead the Lakers to a championship.
Howard won’t have any statues of himself built outside of Staples Center, but he has a chance to make people forget about that disastrous first season in Los Angeles.
You can view the entire interview with Howard when the newest episode of “In Depth with Graham Bensinger” premieres this weekend across the country. You can check where it’ll air on these TV listings.
Follow the Heavy on NBA Facebook page for all the latest stories, rumors and viral content!