HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — You have to wonder what Joe “Jellybean” Bryant has to say about the mess that has become the Los Angeles Lakers’ season and the superstar dynamic between All-Star starters Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard?
We’ve already heard from just about everyone else, and that includes Howard’s father, Dwight Howard Sr. Howard’s father opened up to Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, defending his son on one hand and taking direct aim at Bryant and Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni:
“I told him before he said it publicly, ‘It’s your career. No person can say what you need to do or not do. You can’t worry about what Kobe or anybody else says,’” the elder Howard said. “Nobody can say what Kobe said — that’s stepping into another man’s shoes. I understand what Kobe was trying to do, but he went about it the wrong way. He’s trying to win a championship. But Dwight has to tell Kobe, ‘I appreciate your opinion, but that doesn’t matter. We’re two men on this team. We need to be reasonable about this.’”
Dwight Sr. said he believed Bryant was trying to motivate his son, but that the advice was misplaced, adding: “The problem is the coach. (D’Antoni) needs to step in and say, ‘You guys have got to be quiet. We’re trying to secure something here. Dwight is probably looking at the coach, thinking, ‘What are you going to do?’ I promise, if that had been Stan Van Gundy, that wouldn’t have happened. (Howard) wouldn’t have been admonished publicly. I think the coach has a lot to do with who controls Kobe’s mouth right now.”
This latest round of drama, coming on the heels of Bryant suggesting that Howard needed to play through whatever pain is associated with his torn labrum, and Howard firing back and suggesting that Bryant is no doctor and need not be concerned with how he handles himself on the injury front, should make for an entertaining pregame locker room scene today in Miami.
The Lakers face LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the defending world champion Miami Heat for the second and final time this season this afternoon (3:30 ET, ABC). It’s a game that will have the undivided attention of the basketball world for reasons other than the always anticipated Kobe-LeBron dynamic.
Few dramas in the history of the league have dragged the fathers of famous sons into the fray.
But here we are, with the Lakers seemingly on the verge of complete collapse or stunning renaissance every night, trying to sort out who is right or wrong in a public dust-up between superstars that should never have gone this far. Whatever issues Kobe and Dwight (Jr.) have should never have made it out of the locker room. So in that regard, Dwight Sr. makes a valid point about the responsibility that lies with D’Antoni.
Even D’Antoni, who insists that he and his stars are fine (despite the obvious evidence to the contrary), didn’t seem to object to a father protecting his son:
D’Antoni said, “We’re good,” when asked about the state of things between him and the two Lakers’ All-Stars, and shrugged off the comments made by Howard’s father.
“That’s cool,” D’Antoni said. “He should, he’s the father, he should defend his son. But I thought we had that [meeting] in Memphis. Maybe we have to do it again.”
Bryant, for his part, took the liberty of throwing the onus back on the media, a typical and easy response from a veteran of his fair share of teammate drama (Shaquille O’Neal …). He suggested that this has gone on all year, “people have been trying to hang on to stuff. He’s just got to go do his job, man. Just rebound, defend and we do our jobs and [fulfill] our roles on what we have to do to help us win. It’s not rocket science.”
That’s easier said than done when you’re on the receiving end of all of the verbal shots fired. Howard has been in retreat from the very start of this union and it almost feels like his father simply got fed up with his son being the scapegoat for all that’s gone wrong for the Lakers this season.
All that said, fathers often know their sons best. And there’s something else the elder Howard said about his son that speaks to the root of young Dwight’s issue with not only the Lakers but also with Los Angeles and his place in that fair city:
“L.A. has been like humble pie for him,” he said. “When you go from being the man in one city (Orlando) to second or third tier, it takes a toll on you mentally.”
Last I checked, Dwight Howard is the man who wanted out of Orlando. He was “the man” in that city but decided against remaining in that one city for whatever his reasons were then and are today. So if anyone is ultimately to blame for the hoops disaster that has unfolded in Los Angeles this season, “Junior” has to shoulder the bulk of that burden.
If there is a solution to be had,and at this point there is little faith that there is, it won’t come from fathers or mothers, girlfriends or cousins, Dr. Phil (the guy on TV, not Jackson) or Oprah or anyone else.
The only resolution to this issue will come from the two men at the center of it all. They need to resolve their issues, right the Lakers’ ship and guide this team into the postseason. Because if they don’t, the fallout will make all of this drama seem like child’s play compared to the firestorm that a crashed and burned season can bring in Los Angeles.