Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant just can’t get along, and there’s a team in Brooklyn that might be waiting to pick up the pieces.
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.
Howard was restrained from going at his teammate, according to the source, and there have been rumblings from the center’s camp that he’s been unhappy with Bryant since earlier in the season.
Three days after the altercation, following a disheartening loss to the Clippers, Howard complained about the lack of chemistry on the Lakers. It was a comment seemingly directed at Bryant, who is averaging a league-high 22 shots despite playing with three potential Hall of Famers.
The Mike D’Antoni-coached Lakers fell to 15-18 after losing at home to the Denver Nuggets, 112-105, Sunday night despite Howard’s 26 rebounds. Bryant led L.A. with 29 points but took 26 shots.
“Look at the difference between our team and (the Clippers),” Howard said. “They just play together. They share the ball. Everybody’s excited when something happens.”
Howard again hinted at the disconnect on Saturday. There were always concerns over whether Bryant, a no-nonsense veteran, and Howard, a playful man-child, could co-exist.
ould Deron Williams (l.) and new Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo be welcoming in Dwight Howard?
“(Chemistry) is something we have to do to get better,” Howard told reporters in L.A. “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, a pending free agent, has not committed to Los Angeles beyond this season.
If the Lakers decide Howard won’t re-sign, they risk losing him for nothing and it becomes more likely they trade the six-time All-Star.
The Nets spent all of last year trying to acquire Howard, who admitted in October that Brooklyn was his preferred destination.
The Nets are in a position to put together an enticing package if they know Howard would sign long-term to play with Deron Williams. The Nets’ previous proposals to the Magic centered around Brook Lopez, who is having a breakthrough season coming off foot surgery.
Lopez can’t be traded until Jan. 15 because he signed a four-year, $61 million deal in the summer. He is averaging 18.9 points and 7.4 rebounds, while Howard – who is coming off back surgery – is on pace for his worst statistical campaign (17.4 points, 12.0 rebounds) since his second season.
Prior to the trade that sent Howard to Los Angeles, Bryant reportedly told Howard he’d be the third offensive option if traded to the Lakers. Following the New Year’s Day loss to the 76ers, Bryant was ticked off at Howard and ticked off in front of the media.
“Cause we’re old as s---,” the 34-year-old told reporters, explaining the Lakers’ struggles. “What do you want? We just got to figure out how to play when we don’t have that energy.”
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