According to beat writer Eric Pincus, the superstar center has learned a little bit about what makes Bryant tick in an insightful conversation he had with the much-maligned big man (via the Los Angeles Times).:
“We talked and [Bryant] told me what he did when he had problems, and I see it for myself now,” said Howard. “He was always saying, ‘I get into the gym and shoot 5,000 shots.’ To see it shows me how dedicated he is. I always tell him, ‘I’m afraid to miss. So, when I get there, I don’t want to miss, so I end up missing. He was like, ‘You know what, shoot 1,000 jump shots a day and you’re going to miss a lot of those shots, but then you’re teaching yourself that, hey, it’s OK to miss.’ Now I see it. So [Bryant] gets out there and might miss a couple of threes, next thing you know he’ll make nine threes in a row. You see it and it just kind of gives you more inspiration.”
There’s a lot to that, but at face value, it’s essentially Howard admitting that he’s learned from Kobe’s killer instinct and drive. His ability to shake off bad games, shots and sequences is unmatched, and Howard can benefit from seeing that on a daily basis.
This season for Howard has been a tremendous test for him to this point. Already coming off a significant injury, which he may have returned from too soon, he’s dealt with a coaching change, a different system where he’s gotten fewer touches, a nagging shoulder injury and all of the drama that comes with playing in the fish bowl that is Los Angeles.
The Lakers are over .500 for the first time this calendar year at 32-31, and as they eye the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoffs, they’ll need every bit of production they can get from their big man. Bryant’s leadership isn’t the type that inspires through words of encouragement — that’s not his modus operandi. Bryant is an assassin on the court the likes of which we’ve never seen — the kind of player who wills a team in two games straight vs. the New Orleans Hornets and Toronto Raptors to win under impossible circumstances.
The variance between the two superstars’ mindset is a topic of great discussion in L.A. First, there’s the jovial, likable young center who wants to enjoy life on and off the court, yet plays to win and despite what many think, gives maximum effort. Then, there’s Bryant, who’s effectively a curmudgeon, and doesn’t care what anyone thinks and only wants to win.
It’s a story fit for Hollywood.
But the relationship will get better as long as the Lakers are improving. If Howard stays engaged and puts together stat lines and plays like the crucial block on Robin Lopez that saved the game vs. the Hornets on Wednesday, then these two opposites will co-exist beautifully.
Winning cures all, and if the Lakers do more of it, everyone in the purple and gold will see the best of both of these outstanding stars.
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