As long as Kobe Bryant is playing with the Los Angeles Lakers, Dwight Howard will be viewed as a not-to-serious, underachieving center, who doesn’t care about winning as much as the Lakers biggest star does. Fighting a losing battle against fan and media perception isn’t making this season easier for him.

Is he playing injured? The ability certainly seems to show something isn’t 100%. On offense and on defense. He isn’t too involved in the Lakers attack as well, again. As Kobe Bryant’s form of late becomes more about shooting and scoring, Dwight Howard is pushed back towards a more minor role. He is averaging only 10.4 points over the last five games, shooting under 50% from the field and taking more then 10 shots in a game only once.

Obviously, something is limiting him. And Howard can deny about him and Kobe Bryant having disagreements, fights, scuffles or whatever. Maybe it’s all imaginary talk of some reporters who just want to get some attention. No proof means it hasn’t happened, probably. But one thing is certain – the Lakers are below .500 once again, with Howard looking weak, limited and out of his depth in the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He’s posting his worst numbers since his second season in the NBA.

Maybe the back injury that took him out at the ending of last season is still affecting him. Maybe he needed more time to heal from that one, and from the shoulder injury that started the latest drama in LA. We’ve been through it, and the Lakers recent winning streak, bringing them a little bit closer to the playoff spot that looked like it was impossible to reach a month ago. But something’s off with this team, and it’s a polar kind of issue.

Unless Bryant is completely focused on passing and feeding his teammates, making Howard look like a 20-15 kind of Center, or Bryant is in unstoppable scorer mode and making about 55-60% of his shots, the Lakers can’t compete with the good teams, the potential playoff teams on their schedule.

Howard talked recently about missing the days in Orlando, when he was the guy everything revolved around. He was happy, or happier than he seems to be now in LA. Despite the funny-man act and not looking like he takes things seriously as Bryant does, I doubt he doesn’t want to win, or doesn’t care about winning. He’s just not as intense in his facial expressions as other players are. It’s wrong to think of him as less of a player because he doesn’t make serious faces, but that seems to be part of the rational leading his critics this season.

The question of will he or won’t he re-sign with the Lakers isn’t as easy to answer as it was when he was traded to Los Angeles. He’ll earn more money with the Lakers, that’s true. But with a social situation that might be getting worse if losses keep coming and the Lakers miss the postseason, Howard playing for a different team in 2014 isn’t out of the question.

Image: Source