The Los Angeles Lakers’ 2014-15 season got off to a rough start on Tuesday night. Rookie Julius Randle broke his leg, Kobe Bryant shot 35%, and the Rockets blew them out of the Staples Center 108-90.
But all of that is taking a backseat to what happened with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, when Kobe and ex-teammates Dwight Howard got into a minor scuffle after Kobe took exception to an elbow.
It ended with Kobe yelling things like, “soft!” and “try me!” at Dwight.
After Dwight got a rebound he swung his elbows and hit Kobe in the face:
Referees quickly stepped in to separate the two:
Kobe appeared to yell, “Try me!”
While the refs were reviewing the play, the two stars yelled at each other from across the court. Kobe appeared to say, “SOFT!”
After the game both players downplayed the incident. Kobe called Dwight a “teddy bear” and a “nice kid” and said the NBA shouldn’t be so sensitive (via Lakers Nation):
“I think it’s fantastic. That’s the game. That’s all part of the game. Elbow are part of the game. Trash talk is part of the game. I don’t know where the NBA became so sensitive. It’s all part of it.
“You can’t help but like him. I mean he’s a teddy bear. You can’t help but like him. I really mean that, he’s a really nice kid.”
Dwight was a little bit frostier, telling Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, “What do you want me to say because I’m not going to give you nothing. That’s stupid. We won the game. It’s over with.”
The only one willing to speak some truth was Lakers coach Byron Scott.
“They don’t like each other, simple as that,” he said.
Kobe and Dwight have an tumultuous history. In the summer of 2012 the Lakers traded for Howard. At the time, it was assumed Howard who sign a contract extension after the 2012-13 season and the Lakers would be a juggernaut with Kobe, Howard, and Steve Nash. That plan quickly unravelled, with Howard clearly not 100% after back surgery and Nash breaking down physically as well.
Howard left in free agency in the summer of 2013, taking $US30 million less to play for the Rockets. In a new article in ESPN The Magazine, anonymous NBA agents and sources said Kobe was the reason Dwight left.
The Howard-Nash experiment went about as badly as it could have gone for the Lakers, and it clearly bred animosity between everyone involved.
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