The Los Angeles Lakers have had one of the most disappointing seasons in team history, but on Wednesday Kobe Bryant confronted Dwight Howard in a team meeting in an attempt to let go of their frustrations.
“Guys went at each other a little bit,” said a person who witnessed the meeting, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Coach Mike D’Antoni called the early-morning meeting Wednesday because he was irritated about newspaper stories about players demanding more touches and doubting his offensive strategy. Bryant and Howard have been guilty of each charge.
After the Lakers 95-83 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Monday, Bryant insisted that the offense should run at a slower tempo. Howard complained about only getting five shots in the loss. Howard apologized for his remarks after Wednesday’s shoot-around, labeling them “immature.”
Bryant asked Howard directly if he detested playing alongside him, but Howard’s response was unclear according to the eyewitness.
Bryant conceded that he could be “hard to play with” at times and once again asked Howard if that bothered him.
“He didn’t go back at Kobe,” said the eyewitness.
After Wednesday’s night 106-93 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, Howard quickly denied the details of the confrontation. He sat out the second half after re-aggravating his right shoulder injury.
“Whatever was said that (Bryant) said is not true,” Howard said. “He never asked me if I liked playing with him. I will say that. He never asked me.”
Howard was asked if he was bothered by playing alongside Bryant.
“No, I’m not,” he said. “It’s something that we all got to learn. We got to learn how to play together.”
Bryant said after Wednesday’s loss that he was perfectly fine with everything he said in the morning meeting.
Before Wednesday’s game, D’Antoni was hopeful that the meeting allowed players to relieve some suppressed feelings.
“I hope it is (a positive thing),” D’Antoni said. “That’s the purpose of just trying to move forward, and hopefully it is. We’ll see. We’re in a rut right now, so the time to stand up, draw a line in the sand would be now.”
The Lakers are 17-25 at the season’s halfway point, which can be attributed to three coaching changes and several injuries.
D’Antoni compared team members to players in an All-Star Game, essentially calling them selfish because they play 1-on-1 basketball and no defense. The Lakers are fifth in scoring (102.6 points in a game) but 26th in defense (101.4 points a game).
“We’re an All-Star team and we haven’t learned there’s a pecking order,” he said. “There’s the one guy, the two guy, the three guy and the four guy. It might not be the same guy every night, but somebody has got to accept being the fourth guy. If you’ve been the first guy all your life, that’s hard to accept. That’s what happens in All-Star (Games) and that’s what happened with us.”
For now it is unclear if Howard will be sidelined further after re-aggravating his shoulder injury, but it is imperative that the Lakers get back on the winning track if they want to make the playoffs. They are in 12th place in the Western Conference.