HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — They couldn’t even get through a full week of training camp in Los Angeles before the dueling big men of the Lakers’ past and present got cranked up again.
This time it’s current Lakers center Dwight Howard firing back at former Lakers center (and current TNT analyst) Shaquille O’Neal for his seemingly never-ending assault on Howard’s game and name.
The latest dust-up stems from words Shaq uttered on “Open Court” (clip above, debut episode airs Tuesday at 11 p.m. ET on NBA TV), when he ranked Brook Lopez and Andrew Bynum over Howard when the conversation turned to the best big men in the game.
“We as players, we always watch people before us,” O’Neal said. “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.”
Shaq was later corrected by other members on the “Open Court” panel for mistaking Hornets center Robin Lopez for his twin brother on the Nets. But the damage was already done.
By the time the information was relayed to Howard after the Lakers finished practice Thursday, well … as you might expect, it wasn’t pretty.
(The fireworks kick off at the 5:31 mark of the video, below.)
Howard fired back at O’Neal for being a hypocrite, disingenuous and basically washed up.
“I don’t care what Shaq says,” Howard said. “Shaq played the game. He’s done. He’s gone. It’s time to move on. He hated the fact when he played that the older guys were talking about him and how he played and 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. He’s one of the most dominant players to ever play the game. Just sit back and relax. You did your thing. Your time is up. So, I don’t really care. I don’t really care. He can say whatever he wants to say.”
The Lakers will retire Shaq’s jersey this season. But don’t expect any warm embraces from one big man to another. Howard doesn’t seem at all interested in any meeting of the minds between giants.
“What do we need to get on the same page for?” Howard said. “I have respect for him and what he did for basketball. That’s it. Like I said, he’s already did his thing. He played. 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 to get to where I’m at. I think that’s what guys who have done it before us should do.”
The crack in this relationship dates back Howard’s Orlando roots and the fact that he not only followed in Shaq’s footsteps there as the face of the franchise and one of the elite young bigs in the league, but also at his adoption of the Superman nickname that Shaq had used years earlier.
Rather than rehash all of the foolishness that has transpired between the two over the years, we’ll just go ahead and agree with Howard on one thing: It’s time for both men to move on from this petty feud.
Both of them have their own credentials (Howard is obviously still working on his impressive pile) that should get them into the greatest-big-men-of all-time club long after their playing careers have faded from the minds of fans.
So there’s really no point in this continued sparring over who might be the best when they’ll both rank behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Olajuwon (for starters), when the discussion of the greatest big man of all time starts up.
Howard had much more pressing matters to tend to anyway, namely helping Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol try to unseat the Miami Heat as NBA champs. He can’t win a war of words with Shaq because the big fella has the bully pulpit every week on TNT and NBA TV.
Again, it’s time for both men to simply move on from this entire mess.