Shaquille O’Neal isn’t too fond of Dwight Howard. Neither is anyone, really. Welcome to the club.
His reaction on the Lakers blockbuster deal wasn’t one with a ton of optimism. He is Shaq after all and following his footsteps shouldn’t come easy. It requires much more mental stability than Howard has showcased to date.
Shaq went as far to tell the Los Angeles Times that Howard shouldn’t call himself big unless he learns to handle the pressure inherent in playing in Los Angeles.
“I have three sons, and I always tell them that if you want to call yourself big then you have big shoes to fill,” O’Neal said. “Anybody who calls himself big has big shoes to fill. Right now, he’s off pace. He has to get himself on pace if he wants to call himself big.”
That pressure, Shaq believes, will be multiplied by three in LA. That’s saying a lot considering the pressure Howard manufactured with his indecisiveness, ambivalence and borderline churlish behavior.
“The pressure that he has been feeling in Orlando has just multiplied by three now,” O’Neal said. “The first thing the great Jerry West did when I signed with the Lakers is he walked me into the Forum and told me to look up. He showed me all the great big men that played before me and how many championships they won. The Lakers have a tradition of having great big men. He has a lot of work ahead of him. If he thinks the Orlando Sentinel was on his case when he didn’t perform, guys like (Los Angeles Times columnist) Bill Plaschke, they don’t play.”
Howard got what he wanted — a legitimate championship contender with the ancillary benefits of nice weather and the ability to adhere to Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash whenever things become rough.
But he didn’t create this path without accepting risks. Not only will he have to succeed under intense spotlight, he will be expected to live up to one of the greatest basketball players ever.
You know, no pressure.