Lakers center Dwight Howard, left, and guard Kobe Bryant -- shown flanking… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
Kobe Bryant made it clear after his Tuesday exit interview with the Lakers that he wants impending free agent Dwight Howard to re-sign with the team.
The two bonded recently when Howard visited Bryant, who was at his home in Orange County recovering from surgery to repair a torn Achilles.
"I think having Dwight come over at that time, really strengthened our bond. He went through a situation where his back surgery, he was all by himself," Bryant said. "He had nobody there for him. I think he sees ... me going through this and doesn't want me to experience the same thing that he experienced. I see that, I understand that and I respect that. My love for him grew a lot that day."
After a slow start, Bryant and Howard eventually developed a strong on-court chemistry, especially in the pick and roll. It took longer for their personalities to mesh off the court.
Howard spent most of last offseason at a hotel in Beverly Hills, recovering from back surgery in relative isolation.
His decision for next season remains unclear, although Bryant and the Lakers have made it clear to Howard they hope he re-signs.
If Bryant had any advice for Howard, it would be, "Just be yourself."
"If you feel a certain way, voice it. There's nothing wrong with that," Bryant said. "You can't please everybody. There's going to be people who love you and people who don't like you."
Howard has been long-conflicted on his future, deflecting questions on the topic since his debut as a Laker to his exit Tuesday.
"I'm going to be myself now," Howard said after his exit interview, echoing Bryant's comments, which he wasn't privy to at the time.
"I think that's the way I should have been all year, not anybody let me change who I am as a person," Howard said. "[If] I'm going to smile and be a big kid, smile and be a big kid. There's nothing wrong with that."
Of course Bryant's illustration on being oneself reflected a very different self-image.
"Where I come out on it is be yourself. Allow people to judge you for who you are. If they don't see really who you are, then they're not really judging you fairly," Bryant said. "If you think I'm [a jerk], at least let me be [a jerk] and then you can judge for yourself."
Howard has often likened himself to a big kid, while Bryant is aware that his own personality can be quite intense.
While a contract with Howard can't officially be agreed to until July, the Lakers are hoping to learn the answer earlier, affording management time and flexibility to make roster adjustments for next season.