Los Angeles Lakers – Still the Kobe Bryant Team

The player getting the most attention on the Los Angeles Lakes media day? Dwight Howard, being the new big name in town, although no one’s quite sure when he’s really going to play. Kobe Bryant, who doesn’t like getting all of the attention suddenly shifting away from him, made sure everyone knew who was the real alpha male on this team.

I got a question earlier about whose team this is. I don’t want to get into the, ‘Well, we share …’ No, it’s my team. But I want to make sure that Dwight, when I retire, this is going to be his. I want to teach him everything I possibly know so that when I step away this organization can ride on as if I never left.

To be honest, as much as it sounds arrogant and typical from Bryant, he’s right. In all likelihood,  he’s still going to be the main scoring threat for this team, or at least expects to be. He’s been here since 1996, and has been the team’s best player since 2004. He just won his second Olympic gold medal and nearly won the NBA scoring title while pushing towards 34. Unless some sharp decline suddenly occurs, which is something many (including me) are so certain it’ll happen one day, Bryant is still the best player on the Lakers.

Dwight Howard isn’t the only new face that arrived to take the Lakers back to the top of the basketball world, but his is the most interesting case. While Steve Nash is one of the oldest players in the NBA, Dwight Howard is supposedly at his prime, with many thinking he still has a lot of unfulfilled potential yet to be exposed and explored. Nash is an All-Star, but he knows what’s it like not being the focal point on a team. A leader, but a point guard at heart, willing to share and stay away from the spotlight. Howard? He’s always been the main man, the present and the future when he played for the Magic. It isn’t easy adjusting to a new kind of hierarchy.

I’m willing to go through that process, learn from one of the greatest to ever play the game and I think it will be great. I think learning from a guy like Kobe, I know he’s going to be tough on me but I expect that and I want him to do that. So, I’ll take all the heat that he’s going to give me because I know at the end of the day that’s going to make me a better player and a better person and it’s going to make this team better.

The talk is about Bryant nurturing Howard into becoming the franchise player for the Lakers; grooming him for the day that Bryant calls it quits. He has two more years left on his contract, but who knows how much longer and how much more basketball he has in him. His presence on the floor alone makes it impossible at times for other players to shine, unless they’re willing to grab the moment by force, like Gasol did in the 2010 NBA finals. Bryant may be talking about nurturing but he’s making it very clear: this is his team, and he’s not very likely to simply give the attention, spotlight and stardom away.