Dwight Howard‘s trade to the Los Angeles Lakers was met with much fanfare and high expectations from the local fanbase. But his first training camp in L.A. has brought more education than celebration for the all-star center.
Now, the 26-year-old center is deflecting criticism from a 15-time all-star center who won three NBA championships with the Lakers – and happens to have a mighty large personality to boot. Shaq.
“We as players, we always watch people before us,” Shaquille O’Neal said last week during a video discussion with fellow TNT analysts that was posted on NBA.com last week. “When I came in, it was Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon, guys who played like true centers who played inside. What we have now are centers that are going to the European style, which is a lot of pick-and-roll. Dwight Howard, who’s a pick-and-roll player, some people say he’s the best center in the league, but me being an old-school center, I’m going to go with Robin Lopez and Andrew Bynum because they play with their back to the basket.” (O’Neal later corrected the statement, saying he meant to list Robin’s brother, Brook Lopez, who plays for New Orleans.)
Asked about the comments after Thursday’s practice, Howard told reporters (via the Los Angeles Times), “I don’t care what Shaq says. Shaq played the game. He’s done. He’s gone. It’s time to move on. He hated the fact when he played that older guys were talking about him and how he played. Now he’s doing the exact same thing. Just let it go. There’s no sense for him to be talking trash to me. He did his thing in the league. Sit back and relax. Your time is up.”
As Orlando Sentinel columnist Brian Schmitz notes, the isn’t the first time O’Neal has tried to rile somebody up with a bold or outrageous statement – and it certainly won’t be the last. But as usual, the target and the media took the bait.
The Lakers plan to retire O’Neal’s No. 34 jersey at halftime of their April 2 game at Staples Center, but Howard said he has no desire to patch things up before then.
“I have respect for him and what he did for basketball,” Howard said. “That’s it. When my time is up, there’s going to be somebody else who can do everything I can do and probably do it better. Instead of me talking about him, I’ll do my job to try to help him get to where I’m at. I think that’s what guys who have done it before us should do.”
In an interview with ESPN last month, Howard said the soap opera surrounding his departure from Orlando taught him a key lesson: “I can’t make everybody happy.“
Now it’s time to take that lesson and apply it, but avoiding a silly war of words with a Laker legend.