Lakers big man Dwight Howard smiles as he walks on the court in Orlando after… (John Raoux / Associated…)
Lakers center Dwight Howard gave more praise to Kobe Bryant on Tuesday night's Time Warner Cable SportsNet special titled "Connected With...Dwight Howard."
"I do appreciate what [Bryant's] doing," said Howard to host Kevin Frazier. "We've talked all year. We've had conversations on the bus rides and the planes just about how to become that icon that I want to be."
Howard said Bryant has helped him become a better player.
"He's just pushing me," said Howard. "I need somebody to push me.... He's the guy who can show me because he's been through every single thing. One thing I can admire about him is the fact that he has five rings."
The Lakers center also noted that widespread adulation can lead to laziness in others, but not with Bryant.
"You stop doing the things that you did to get there but for him, he hasn't done that," Howard said. "He's in the gym every day. He's getting his treatment. He's in the weight room. He's getting his shots up and that shows greatness."
Howard also noted he's still learning from Bryant's ability to ignore criticism.
"I just have to learn how to just have tunnel vision," he said. "I see Kobe, he doesn't allow what anybody says affect who he is as a player because he knows who he is -- and you know I'm learning that. I'm learning how to do that."
Howard said he and Bryant have been communicating since they played against each other in the 2009 NBA Finals. He said he took Bryant's advice to make 1,000 jump shots a day.
"From that day on that's what I started doing," said Howard. "It really had got my confidence up."
After back surgery in April, Howard wasn't able to train all summer. In addition to tingling in his legs and a lack of stamina, Howard looked rusty throughout the first half of the season.
"When you have a major injury, sometimes it can affect you mentally," said Howard. "I think this has made me stronger."
Since the All-Star break, Howard has looked significantly fresher and the Lakers have starting to win consistently, climbing to 34-31.
Howard still wouldn't talk about his future beyond this season, saying any focus away from the task at hand is nothing more than a distraction.
Howard downplayed the notion he and Bryant have a tense relationship.
"I don't think there's any friction between us," he said. We both want to win and we want to make history and that's our goal right there."
The Lakers visit the Atlanta Hawks (34-29) on Wednesday night.
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Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.