Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard would mesh well together
The Staples Center crowd remains anxious.
Out of nowhere, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant lobs a pass that appears so high above the basket that it seems uncatchable. Someone does. Bryant's teammate dunks the ball one-handed and throws up his two index fingers. The whole arena goes wild.
Everyone remembers this play between Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal that cemented the Lakers' Game 7 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2000 Western Conference finals. But Bryant could reconstruct this play should another former Orlando Magic center that also goes by the name Superman arrive in Los Angeles. He's Dwight Howard, and don't think Bryant never imagined such a scenario.
"It was fun playing with him," Bryant once said about teaming with Howard on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team. "I could just close my eyes, throw the ball at the top of the backboard and he'd go get it."
Now NBA teams are clamoring to go get Howard ever since he refused to sign an extension with Orlando. For the Lakers, there's no more tangible argument that it's worth acquiring Howard in a trade package involving at least Andrew Bynum or Lamar Odom than looking at the Black Mamba himself.
Cementing Howard would ensure the Lakers a franchise player once Bryant retires when his three-year, $83.5-million deal expires before the 2013-14 season or shortly afterward. In the meantime, Bryant and Howard would instantly become the NBA's unstoppable duo. Unlike Bryant's time with O'Neal, the pairing wouldn't yield much friction.
"Dwight is a good friend of mine," Bryant said after the 2011 NBA All-Star game when he admitted he's connected Howard with L.A.-based real estate agents. "I try to help wherever I can."
"Kobe Bryant," Howard said. "He's an unbelievable person to be around, talk to and pick his brain. He's a good guy. That's why I want to have him on my team."
That's because Howard thinks Bryant will help him secure a championship.
"I don't have any," Howard said. "I wish I had some rings. One day I will."
Bryant could help with that. He's called Howard the "strongest guy I ever played against," which ensured three consecutive NBA defensive-player-of-the-year honors. Bryant appreciates that Howard's laid-back personality doesn't diminish his competitiveness. And when he was asked about Bynum's career-high 18 rebounds in a win last season over Orlando, Bryant made his thoughts clear on one thing.
"Dwight's obviously right now, the best center in the game."
Should Howard join the Lakers, he'll retain that title and more.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant makes sure to send Magic center Dwight Howard to the free-throw line instead of giving up a dunk in Game 3 of the 2009 NBA Finals. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / June 9, 2009