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Elbow causes Kobe, Dwight tussle

LOS ANGELES -- "They don't like each other, simple as that."

That's how Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott summarized Tuesday's fourth-quarter skirmish between Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard during the Houston Rockets' 108-90 win at Staples Center.

The verbal altercation between the ex-Lakers teammates began when Howard grabbed a rebound and Bryant got in his face, trying to contest an outlet pass. Howard threw elbows to clear space, and one appeared to connect with Bryant's chin.

The two, who clashed during their one season together on the Lakers in 2012-13, immediately began trash-talking each other and had to be separated.

"He elbowed me in the face, and I'm gonna let him know, I don't like that," Bryant said after the game. "It's that simple."

After a review, Bryant was assessed a personal foul and Howard a flagrant foul 1, and each player was tagged with a technical foul.

"It's fantastic," Bryant said. "That's the game. That's all part of the game. Elbows are a part of the game. Trash-talking is part of the game. I don't know where the NBA became so sensitive. It's all part of it."

A Lakers source said Bryant repeatedly called Howard "soft."

"He's a teddy bear. You can't help but like him. I really meant that. ... But you know, when you're competing, you have a goal in mind. I know one way to get there."

Kobe Bryant, on his skirmish with former teammate Dwight Howard

Howard refused to go into specifics when asked about the incident by reporters.

"What do y'all want me to say, because I'm not [going] to give y'all nothing," Howard said. "It's stupid. We won the game. It's over with. I mean, there's no need to go into it. We won the game. It's about basketball. I mean it's over with. It's nothing. I'm not even focused on it."

But does Bryant dislike Howard, as Scott stated?

"You can't help but like him," Bryant said, smiling. "He's a teddy bear. You can't help but like him. I really meant that. He's a really nice kid. But you know, when you're competing, you have a goal in mind. I know one way to get there. There's certain times when we didn't see eye to eye, but that wasn't one of those situations."

Scott said Monday that he believed the reason Bryant and Howard clashed during their brief stint as teammates was because Bryant is "a real serious guy and wants to win championships. I don't know if Dwight is that serious about it."

After leaving the Lakers, Howard signed with the Rockets as a free agent in 2013.

ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne contributed to this report.