Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard Must Lead Lakers Together for LA to Be Playoff Threat

The Los Angeles Lakers will only go as far as Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard can carry them. Together.

For far too long, a relationship that was often considered fractured beyond repair was attempting to lead a team essentially in shambles.

Trying to reach the playoffs in the midst of tactical ambiguity and two superstars jostling for position both on and off the court, though, isn't plausible. Falling further than rock bottom, however, is.

That is exactly where the Lakers found themselves 42 games into season. Eight games under .500, rumors of internal combustion and advanced ataxia plagued an already mangled faction. Forget a playoff berth, sheer competency even seemed out of reach.

Then something changed.

The Lakers began to win; they began an arduous, yet suddenly tenable trek back to .500. Following an unsightly implosion against the Memphis Grizzlies, postseason hopes were restored and optimism wasn't a theory—it existed.

Yet even then, something was missing. As Los Angeles went on to win seven of 10 after a cataclysm in Memphis, something still just wasn't right. That something wasn't Pau Gasol's injury, either.

It was Kobe and Dwight.

If Bryant wasn't questioning Howard's toughness, Dwight was seemingly defying Kobe's will. The dyad's dynamic was fragile at best, and despite the winning, the Lakers seemed but one loss away from caving under the pressures of an uphill battle and an unacknowledged domestic war.

Deny it as both did, they weren't together (via Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com): 

The first three quarters of the season played out with Bryant seemingly pushing his hardest because he knows he doesn't have much longer to play and Howard seemingly not wanting to push too hard because he knows how much longer he has to play.

There were conflicting agendas and personalities, enough drama to fill an HBO...

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