When Kobe Bryant went down, Lakers fans—in an understandable depression—might have not realized that their squad’s Playoff chances are still very much alive. But the team will need a new leader. Enter Dwight Howard, who’s played second fiddle behind Kobe all year…until now. Per ESPNLosAngeles: “With his teammates gathered, Howard stood in front of them and spoke for the first time as the team leader. ‘I just told them that [Lakers management] put this team together for a reason, and we all know how to play basketball,’ Howard said. ‘We’ve all done special things in our career before, and it’s time to do it again. We’ve all been blessed to play with Kobe, but we all have talent too, and we have to show it.’ For the first time since being traded to the Lakers in August, Howard was given the opportunity to lead the team. It’s a position he held with the Orlando Magic for the previous eight seasons and one that he anticipated accepting with the Lakers at some point after Bryant retires. ‘That’s why they brought me here,’ Howard said. … In Bryant’s absence, Howard understands he has to assume more of a leadership role. That doesn’t just mean the offense must run through him, which it will now, but it means being a vocal presence in huddles, meetings, practices and games. ‘This team’s got to ride my back even though my back is still healing,’ Howard said. ‘I feel I can do all things and take this team to the next level. Everybody is looking at me, so I have to tell the guys how I feel. The main thing is we have to go out there and play together. Without Kobe, there is still a lot that can be done with this team.’”