I'm not so sure there isn't something to this. Kobe feels the best way to motivate is to harass and be critical. Tough Love is his motto. Dwight won't respond well to that in my opinion. He's an AAU baby and has always been coddled.
I could definitely see Kobe saying, "Shaq was right. You are soft." in an effort to get the big man to play angry. Kobe doesn't play to have fun. He plays to win. He plays angry and furious. He's a lot like KG in that way. It's why KG always calls Howard a clown.
There are certain type of personalities that can play together and can't. Rondo and KG are perfect b/c they are wired very similarly. They would not work well with Howard, just like Kobe can't b/c he's just not serious enough for their taste.
I could see Kobe trying to get Dwight mad in an effort to get him to play dominant. I think it will back fire though. Dwight's body isn't ready. It's not recovered enough yet for him perform like he has before the injury.
Sometimes, you wonder if Kobe can see the forest through the trees. He might be turning on Dwight Howard already — you can see it — a crucial development since Dwight could simply flee to Dallas, Houston or Atlanta next summer. Howard's missed free throws are driving Kobe batty; he can barely hide his disdain on the court anymore. Same for Howard's trying-too-hard-to-be-jovial routine and a general impression that Howard doesn't live and die with the result of every basketball game. From what I heard, Kobe already played the "You don't know anything about winning championships!" card with Howard — during a scrimmage last week, when the second team beat the first team partly because Howard checked out (he wasn't getting the ball enough), followed by Kobe blistering him. That same week, Kobe needled Gasol publicly for not sucking it up with knee tendinitis, saying he needed to "put your big boy pants." The whole thing is strange.
I don't think the story is bunk because Kobe isn't a mean sonofabiscuit who will say/do whatever it takes so he gets to win, I think its bunk because 99.9% of the time, reporters over-inflate these stories in facts and in the way they portray the situation.
For instance, nobody posted about how "The Celtics Are Already Coming Apart" when KG and Powe got into a fistfight in an early practice. (Was it Powe or Perkins?)
Did Howard ever try to actually 'fight' Kobe? Doubt it. Maybe he went to yell at him, maybe Kobe did actually call him soft.
But at the end of everything, it seems a much more likely scenario that Kobe said something really mean and personal to howard, and Howard postured. Its not the type of thing that screams epic event to a teams' chemistry.
Self-edit: That's not what dissembling means, and I'm an idiot.