Kobe Bryant’s presence on the court and in the locker room is going to be missed; there’s no way around it. Kobe has basically been through it all in professional basketball, as he has experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows in his seventeen years in the NBA.
However, his leadership may have transferred to another key player in purple and gold already. Dwight Howard is now arguably “the guy” on the Lakers with an injured and missing Kobe Bryant. Howard has the skills and abilities to set the tone every night for the team, as he has already shown in the past few games.
Dwight recently talked about how he has learned to lead by watching and analyzing Kobe Bryant over the season. According to Melissa Rohlin of the Los Angeles Times, Dwight had the following to say about being a student of Kobe’s leadership course:
“I watched Kobe all year, I watched a lot of the things he’s done with this team,” Howard said. “He’s not one of those guys who’s going to get in the locker room and be vocal. He’s just going to do everything on the court. That’s the way he shows his leadership, just by how hard he plays, how hard he trains. Other guys are the vocal guys.”
“[Bryant] has done a great job of that and not allowing other teams to see your frustration,” Howard said. “He’s good at it. It’s just one thing that’s going to help me grow as a player. It’s not letting little things affect me, at least not showing it to the point where my teammates feel as though I’m not focused on the game.”
That reflects the message Dwight has been repeating to the media during practice over the past couple of days. The way he has been playing has also echoed Kobe’s “lead by example on the court” type of leadership, especially in his dominant performance against the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday.
So, is Dwight up for the challenge of being the leader for the Lakers moving forward in tonight’s crucial game and in the postseason (assuming they make it)?
“I believe I can do both [lead by example and be vocal]. I’ve been trying to do that for the whole year and now with Kobe out, I understand I have to do more and be more for this team. This is a great opportunity for me and I believe I can do it.”
The Lakers have won six of their last seven games, as they are in control of their own playoff destiny. It is kind of crazy to think that they could end the regular season as the seven seed if they win tonight against Houston considering the drama-filled season they endured.
To do that and to fight as a team in the playoffs, Dwight will need to continue to step up as the leader for the Lakers.