T.J. SIMERS

What's wrong with the media? Just ask Dwight Howard

The Lakers center has gotten a bum rap from sports media talking trash and dispensing pablum. And that's just the half of it.

I have some things on my mind.

— The NFL combine is not one of them. I'd rather watch the wife's reality TV shows all night long and have her tell me about her day during the commercials.

— I'm big on "Skyfall," but the fact it's not one of the nominations for movie of the year makes a mockery of the Academy Awards.

— I'm also big on Dwight Howard and believe most Lakers fans and the media owe him an apology.

And let's begin with ESPN's screamer, Stephen A. Smith, who said this week that no one else has reported it, so he will: He said San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich had hit Howard with a number of obscenities for not paying attention in a team huddle at the All-Star game.

The story quickly spread. San Antonio Express-News columnist Buck Harvey, among others, repeated the Smith report and used it to heap more criticism on Howard.

Harvey never talked to Popovich but did report: "Spur assistants who were in the All-Star Game huddle in Houston say the incident has been overblown."

Howard said Friday night that what Smith had told everyone "just never happened."

"Pop was diagramming a play for me, and then as he showed us what to do he kept saying, 'Blake.' So Blake and I are confused, but he keeps saying Blake, so Blake takes off his jersey and goes into the game.

"Pop sees me and wants to know why I'm not in the game running the play, so I tell him he kept saying Blake so Blake went in. He wasn't swearing at me."

The report by Smith provided more ammunition, though, to those who insist Howard isn't as intense as he should be.

"It hurts me, but what can I do about it?" said Howard, who has averaged 19 points and 12.6 rebounds the last five games. "I can't fight ESPN."

I got fired by ESPN, so I understand.

— By the way, I'm not big on the media, and I would like to apologize for the media being so ridiculous, beginning with Kobe Bryant's guarantee the Lakers will make the playoffs.

Stop the presses, please.

What would you expect him to say? How can we make the playoffs with Mike D'Antoni as coach?

"It's not a question of if we make the playoffs," Kobe told Sports Illustrated. "We will."

Where's the news in Kobe saying what everyone would expect him to say?

And yet the local media went to every player Friday night wanting to know what he thought of Kobe's guarantee.

Why weren't they asking his teammates if they were disappointed in Kobe for not saying, "I'll retire if we don't make the playoffs."

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