HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — For all the tough-love Kobe Bryant has hammered upon Dwight Howard, perhaps the rehabbing Black Mamba has realized he’s got to go a little softer on the sensitive big guy.
The Los Angeles Lakers superstar Wednesday went on the “The Mason & Ireland Show” on ESPN LA 710 radio Wednesday and said he believes Howard will re-sign with the Lakers and offered up this little ego-scratcher:
“It’s not like you have guys like Dwight Howard just walking around every day. Those guys are hard to find. They don’t grow on trees. I think when you have somebody like that, with his talent level, you have to, you have to be able to keep him and lock him in with this franchise, and with the history that this franchise has of having great centers, this would, in my opinion, be the perfect spot for him.”
Hey, sounds genuine. But what about the recent report that Howard and Los Angeles Clippers free-agent-to-be Chris Paul have a rekindled interest to team up somewhere?
“There’s always so much talk going on, especially with big-name guys going here, going there, but that happens once in a blue moon. I think at the end of the day, everybody stays.”
So Dwight sticks with the Lakers and CP3 stays with the Clips — not sure if Kobe’s considering the Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett angle. So, OK, well see. The countdown to the July 1 start of free agency is officially on. The Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks clearly believe they’re still in the running to land the indecisive Howard. The Mavs are rumored to be ready to trade the No. 13 pick in the draft to clear needed cap space to sign him. Bryant said on the radio show Wednesday that he last talked to Howard a couple weeks ago:
“…Just to check in with him, see what he was doing, see what he was up to, see how his summer was going. But I haven’t spoken to him since. I know he’s got a big decision to make and I’m sure he’ll take the visits and talk to the players from the teams that he’s considering. We’ll touch base a lot more.”
Earlier this month, Bryant told ESPNLA.com that “I have to make sure I have the final word” when it comes to lobbying Howard. Mavs owner Mark Cuban recently said the same, that he wants to get in the final word. It might make for an interesting text and/or Twitter battle on Howard’s phone in a few weeks.
As for Bryant’s rehab, he is now being a bit more realistic about targeting his return. Earlier this month he said he’d be ready for the opener in late October. Now he’s thinking it’ll take a little bit longer. He underwent surgery to repair a torn left Achilles tendon in mid-April and the recovery period is typically six to nine months, sometimes longer. Here’s what he’s thinking as of Wednesday:
“I’m shooting for November, December [at the] latest. That’s my goal in my head. That’s what I’m shooting for. I’m really, really determined about getting there. When they think the tendon is strong enough for me to be able to progress to doing really heavy weights and more conditioning and things like that, then it’s on me. I won’t have any fear or any worry of the tendon rupturing again. There’s nothing I can do about it. If it goes again, it goes again. But once I’m ready to go, it’s going to be on.”
And on how it feels at this very moment:
“I think it’s going to be fine. I think it’s going to be more than fine. I’m very pleased with where I’m at. I can get up in the morning and just get up and walk to the bathroom like nothing was wrong. There was a point there where you get up and it’s really stiff because it’s been immobile all night and it’s tough to kind of walk a little bit, but now it feels fine. It actually feels better than it did before I got hurt.”