Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant allegedly got into an altercation following the Los Angeles Lakers’ 103-99 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on New Year’s Day, a source told the New York Daily News. The altercation occurred after Bryant alleged that Howard was “soft,” criticisms from former Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal. Howard had to be restrained by a teammate. Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball talk doubts the veracity of the report, as it came from a NY-based reporter about a franchise based in Los Angeles. Ramona Shelburne cites two sources that say the alleged altercation is “simply not true.”
The issues between Howard and the 15-18 Lakers since his arrival have been documented; as the article notes, Howard has criticized the chemistry in Los Angeles, with words that seemingly apply to Bryant. Howard has not committed to the Lakers beyond this season, and will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
The article speculates that should chemistry not improve in Los Angeles, the Lakers may want to deal Howard, who has said publicly that Brooklyn was his preferred destination. If the Nets were to commit to such a deal, they’d likely have to part with center Brook Lopez, who signed a four-year deal worth $61.8 million this offseason. (Lopez, incidentally, cannot be traded until January 15th, per the rules of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement).
There’s only one issue with that: the Nets might be getting the worse player in that deal. The 24-year-old Lopez is in the midst of the best season of his career, while the 27-year-old Howard has struggled with production and back issues all season.
Howard is averaging 17.2 points, 12.4 rebounds, 2.6 blocks, and 3.2 turnovers per 36 minutes, with a 20.1 PER; Lopez is averaging 23.2 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.8 blocks, and 2.1 turnovers per 36 minutes, with a 25.8 PER. For those of you that say Howard’s defense is the game-changer, the Lakers are only 1.5 points per 100 possessions better defensively with Howard on the court; conversely, the Nets are 2.1 points per 100 possessions better defensively with Lopez on the court.
Howard may have the star power — the Nets spent the better part of a year dangling the goofy Lopez in an attempt to acquire him. Should the opportunity arise, they’d likely do it in a heartbeat. But given Howard’s decline in production and his seemingly balky back, it may not be a prudent move.