It might be 2012 again, because Dwight Howard is on the Los Angeles Lakers, and Shaquille O’Neal is shading him endlessly in the media.
First there was O’Neal pretending to not know who Howard was when informed that Howard was signing with the Lakers. Then he claimed he didn’t know how to spell Howard’s name while implying he was lazy in a tweet to Kobe Bryant.
For his part, Howard has tried to take the high road, saying his focus isn’t on Shaq, and that the former Lakers star’s comments are “irrelevant to what I’m trying to do.”
Still, O’Neal is continuing to talk about Howard, most recently in an appearance on “The Dan Patrick Show,” where O’Neal claimed that he wants Howard to do well, despite everything he’s said over the last
decade few days:
“Listen: I wish him well. My only advice to to him is he needs to dig deep — really deep. I know he’s a big man, he works hard, he wants to win a championship and he wants to get it done.
“My message to the great Dwight Howard is: I know everybody’s counting you out and everybody’s messing with you, but if you dig deep down and play with that anger and play with that ferocity and stop kidding around and use LeBron and Kyle Kuzma. Because they actually got a team good team, right?
“In Miami, I was 34 — same as Dwight — I was on my way out, people thought I was washed up when I left L.A., but I dug deep down and said, ‘You know what? I can do this.’ If he does everything he’s supposed to do: Focus, no joking no playing, just dig deep down and really want it, they could possibly win.”
O’Neal isn’t wrong, exactly, these are just... interesting... criticisms when digging a little deeper. For one thing, Shaq’s argument that Howard is at the same point in his career as O’Neal was when he was traded to the Miami Heat is just factually wrong. Howard will turn 34 in December, while O’Neal was 32 in his first season in Miami. He also was not dealing with the volume of injuries Howard is at this point, and hadn’t been shuttling from team to team over the last few years (the latter of which is admittedly Howard’s fault).
But while one can criticize Howard for what he works on, or the results of it, it’s hard to take Shaquille “Company Time” O’Neal seriously when criticizing a player’s work ethic, as he did on Twitter. There is a lot to critique about Howard, but there are few who would watch his approach and say his failures have to do with not working hard enough. Mentality? Approach to the game? Maybe, but not work ethic.
All that aside, O’Neal is right that Howard needs to take the game seriously during his second tour of duty in Los Angeles. The Lakers have made that eminently clear in how public they’ve been about their reluctance to make this signing. Will Howard be able to dig deep and channel all of those doubts into a great season, as O’Neal suggests? The Lakers certainly have to be hoping so, but only time will tell if they (and O’Neal) will get their wish.
The Dan Patrick Show airs daily at 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ET on the AT&T AUDIENCE Network, which can be found on DIRECTV Ch. 239. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.