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Monday, February 11, 2013
Updated: February 12, 11:33 AM ET
Kobe Bryant downplays Lakers drama

By Ramona Shelburne
ESPNLosAngeles.com

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Kobe Bryant doesn't get what all the fuss was about.

If Bryant wanted to call out Dwight Howard for resting his injured shoulder for three games last week despite being medically cleared to play, he would've just done so. Instead, Bryant claimed his call for "urgency" was misinterpreted as a call-out and turned into a "manufactured conflict."

"I didn't say anything wrong. I didn't say anything to hammer him over the head or take a run at him," Bryant said before the Los Angeles Lakers' practice Monday. "That was actually manufactured. I'd own up to it if I took a run at somebody.

"Urgency is something we've been trumpeting, we've been beating that drum since the beginning of the season when we started struggling."

The comments Bryant is referring to came from an interview he gave to ESPNBoston.com's Jackie MacMullan before the Lakers played the Boston Celtics last Thursday. Howard had sat out the previous three games, and the Lakers had just learned they would be without injured forward Pau Gasol for at least six to eight weeks.

"We don't have time for [Howard's shoulder] to heal," Bryant told MacMullan. "We need some urgency. [Howard] has never been in a position where someone is driving him as hard as I am, as hard as this organization is.

"It's win a championship or everything is a complete failure. That's just how we [the Lakers] do it. And that's foreign to him."

Bryant did not say the quotes in the story were taken out of context. Rather, he took issue with the controversy that spiraled from them and the perception of a rift between himself and Howard.

He said that he reached out to Howard to make sure he understood it wasn't his intention to call him out.

Bryant has been with the Lakers for 17 seasons and has grown somewhat immune to the noise generated by Los Angeles' media. But even when he hears it, Bryant said he's learned it doesn't have to be a negative thing.

"It actually helped us keep our edge, keep our intensity," Bryant said of the controversy that always hovered over his championship runs with Shaquille O'Neal. "It gave us something to kind of build towards. But like I said, there was actual conflict though.

"At least the Shaq stuff was actually warranted. This is just comical."

The situation escalated over the weekend, however, when Howard's father took exception to the comments, as well as coach Mike D'Antoni's handling of the the issue.

Asked Monday whether he could've done a better job handling the situation, D'Antoni said:

"We're not going to play out what we do in the locker room or how I should coach in the media," D'Antoni said. "That's been our problem. Everybody wants a story. Everybody wants to give a story. The story is whether we win or lose and how we play.

"We will sit down with a player, we sit down with players all the time. I'm not going to play it out through the media. I don't think it's right. I don't think any team I've been on has ever done that, and I'm really surprised here in L.A. that seems to be the norm. ... That's not good."

D'Antoni bluntly stated that he doesn't believe the Lakers have a "communication problem."

"Most of the time when there's a communication problem, it's because the message being received is not the message you want," D'Antoni said. "It's not that they don't know what they need to do, how we need to act as a team, whatever. If you don't like the message, then you go say there's a communication problem."

Whether signals are getting crossed or players are simply crossing over the roles they're being asked to play in D'Antoni's system, one spot of common ground emerged on Monday.

"We have to find a way to stay away from [controversy] and focus as much as we can on what we can control on the floor and leave the noise to everyone else," Howard said.

"It is frustrating when things happen that are our of our control. But it just seems like we're the ones who are doing it or saying it."

In other words, stop talking and there won't be as much for others to talk about.