- Arash Markazi, ESPN Staff Writer
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On Wednesday, Kobe Bryant responded as only he can.
"What does it matter?" Bryant said. "What does he want, a cookie for that?"
The Lakers will play the Heat on Thursday with both teams looking for a win rather than bragging rights about dealing with expectations and adversity.
Before Thursday's game, Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni also weighed in on whether the Heat received more scrutiny.
"Probably, because I don't think he handled 'The Decision' very well," D'Antoni said of James. "So, that was probably it. He's right, they did have it a lot tougher. A little bit of it was like self-inflicted, but that's over and he lived up to it. He did a great job."
In 2010-2011 when James joined forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, the Heat started the season 9-8 before finishing 58-24 and losing to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals. This season, the Lakers with Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol are 17-21. Various injuries to Howard, Nash and Gasol have prevented the Lakers' core from playing together at the same time much this season.
Howard said he understood where James was coming from with his comments, considering the widespread backlash James received after announcing his decision to take his "talents to South Beach" during a nationally televised special.
"Most people hated LeBron for what he did and how he did it," Howard said. "Not just that he left, but the manner that he left as far as doing it on TV and the whole thing. In this situation, I don't think people have hate for the Lakers for [trading for Howard and Nash]. I think that's a little bit different. As far as pressure, with our team, everyone expected us to go 82-0 so there's a lot of pressure on us. We feel it every time we step on the court and we can hear it every time we miss a shot or somebody scores. People are upset. They don't expect anybody to score on us. It's a lot of pressure."
Howard said he was actually pulling for James to win a championship last season as Howard recovered from back surgery.
"I was happy for him," Howard said. "I was mad that I was hurt. I had to watch the Finals in bed, but I was happy to see him overcome things people were saying and all the things he had to go through from leaving Cleveland.
"We all have different paths that we have to take. I'm on my path and he's on his. We both want to win, that's why we play this game. He's had three times to win a championship and last time it worked for him. Hopefully it won't take me that long."
Howard also addressed criticism he received from former Laker Robert Horry, who was a guest on ESPNLA 710 on Tuesday and said he would like to see Howard more serious and focused and not smile as much.
"I'm going to continue to be me," Howard said. "I'm going to continue to do what I do. It's made me successful the last nine years. I'm not going to stop smiling. This is what I do for a living and if you have a problem with me smiling we can talk about it. I'm playing basketball. I get paid a lot of money to play basketball.
"I'm going to have fun and I don't care who has a problem with it. He had his time. His time has come and gone. Don't try to tell me how I need to play because I think it's stupid. I never judged him on how he played. Just because I smile and have fun doesn't mean I don't take this game seriously. I don't want anybody to ever get that twisted. I came here to win championships and I came here to dominate but I'm going to do it with a smile on my face."
2dMarc Stein and Ramona Shelburne