Dwight Howard flattened the creases across the chest of his brand-new gold jersey and joined his teammates for a group photo, joking around and laughing even while saying cheese.
The superstar center might be an eight-year NBA veteran, but Monday still felt like the first day of school.
And it was, in a way: Howard is just getting started on his real NBA education from the Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant, who is just as eager to teach as Howard is to learn.
“I know he’s going to be tough on me, but I expect that, and I want him to be that,” Howard said. “I want to be that guy. I’ll take all the heat he’s going to give me, because I know at the end of the day, it’s going to make me a better player and a better person. ... I’m willing to go through that process, learn from one of the greatest ever to play the game, and I think it’ll be great.”
Howard and Bryant wore their gold uniforms together Monday in El Segundo, Calif., as the Lakers opened training camp with a media day, as did most teams around the NBA.
Two-time league MVP Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace joined Howard and Bryant in Los Angeles’ new starting five, their combined star power barely fitting in the frame for thousands of photos.
After two straight seasons ending in the second round of the playoffs, a remarkable offseason shuffle by Los Angeles general manager Mitch Kupchak and owner Jim Buss has put the Lakers in prime position to contend for their 17th NBA championship.
Even while World Peace crowed about the Lakers’ depth an Gasol expressed his gratitude for staying with the Lakers after popping up in innumerable trade rumors, everybody’s eyes were on Bryant and Howard, the Lakers’ unquestioned leader and the supremely gifted big man he has already appointed as his heir.
“This is my team, but I want to make sure that Dwight, when I retire, this is going to be his,” Bryant said. “I want to teach him everything I possibly know, so that when I step away, this organization can ride on as if I never left.”
Even while both men say the situation is ideal, the entire NBA is eager to see how this teacher-student partnership will work.
Sixers center Andrew Bynum will sit out three weeks as a precaution after receiving in injection of platelets for his arthritis-affected knee in Germany. The 76ers acquired Bynum from the Lakers in a four-team deal that saw them ship Andre Iguodala to Denver. … The Bulls gave coach Tom Thibodeau a four-year contract extension through the 2016-17 season. Thibodeau was the NBA’s Coach of the Year for the 2010-11 season and the runner-up last season. … The 76ers picked up the 2013-14 option on coach Doug Collins’ contract. Collins led the Sixers to the playoffs in his first two years with the team, including a run to the Eastern Conference semifinals last season. … NBA Sixth Man of the Year James Harden is holding out hope that he’ll reach terms on a contract extension with the Thunder by the end of the month.