- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant might be a neophyte in the world of Twitter, but it hasn't taken him long to figure out how to use it to control the narrative that's surrounding him.
Bryant tweeted a photo of him and Dwight Howard holding their fists up to one another as if they are preparing to fight on Monday afternoon. It was a tongue-in-cheek response to a New York Daily News story that reported a "heated exchange" occurred between the two Lakers' stars following a New Year's Day loss to Philadelphia.
In the photograph, taken in the training room of the team's practice facility, Bryant is smiling, Howard is sporting a comical growl and Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni is laying down on a training table in between them with a stunned look on his face.
"The mamba vs d12 !! It's on lol," Bryant wrote to accompany the photo.
While the tweet was a good-natured way to poke fun at the Daily News story, members of the Lakers were not as jovial when asked about the validity of the report when questioned by reporters.
"We all try to be professional about what we do, be professional about how we do our jobs," said Bryant. "I guess some people try to skate around that a little bit."
Howard called the story "funny" and questioned the motives of whoever made the story surface.
"We're losing," Howard said of the 15-18 Lakers. "Every little story that comes out is geared towards breaking our team up, but we're bigger than that. We're stronger than that and we're not going to let anything divide us."
Howard said that the source did not come from the Lakers' locker room.
"Obviously with the fake stories coming out somebody has something against our team," Howard said. "It's not us. Me and Kobe don't have a problem with each other. We're not beefing. So, for somebody to come out with a random story saying me and him got in a fight and for it to make ESPN like we're beefing is ridiculous. I just think it's funny."
The story reported that Howard had to be "restrained" from fighting Bryant after Bryant referenced Shaquille O'Neal's criticisms that Howard was "soft."
"It's completely false," said D'Antoni. "Completely false. It doesn't surprise me that reports like that get out, but most of the time it's a little sad, because it's not true. If it was true or close to true, then OK, but it's not close to true."
Bryant started his Twitter account late last week and had already attained more than 590,000 followers as of Monday.
"I wasn't very tech savvy to say the least so it took a little time for me not to be afraid of it, and now I'm at that point," Bryant said.
Bryant's satirical photo wasn't the only Twitter news revolving around the Lakers on Monday. Magic Johnson took to his Twitter account to put his former team on blast in a series of nine tweets that called out everybody from Bryant to Howard to D'Antoni to Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and the team defense.
Johnson wrote that Bryant is "having a an (sic) MVP type season but the team needs him to be a better leader."
"I'll take the blame for that, that's fine," Bryant said.
When asked if he agreed with Johnson's assessment, the five-time champion said it was "ridiculous."
"My role here is to take the brunt of the blame, that's part of the seat that I sit in," Bryant said.
Bryant sought out Johnson's advice last month when the Lakers were in the midst of a four-game losing streak, but took exception with the opinion of the former franchise great this time around.
"The thing about playing in this organization, you have a lot of people who are extremely well respected and who have won a lot of championships and Magic, obviously is one of the greatest of all time," said Bryant. "They've obviously earned the right to be able to voice their opinion, but I'm no slouch either and I kind of know what I'm doing around here."
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant might be a neophyte in the world of Twitter, but it hasn't taken him long to figure out how to use it to control the narrative that's surrounding him.