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Dwight Howard: Why Shaq's Comments Will Fuel Howard in '12-'13

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Dwight Howard: Why Shaq's Comments Will Fuel Howard in '12-'13
Harry How/Getty Images

Breaking news: Brook Lopez is a better player than Dwight Howard.

At least that's the way former Los Angeles Lakers great Shaquille O'Neal views L.A.'s newly acquired center.

Speaking on NBA TV's Open Court last week (h/t ESPN), this is what O'Neal had to say about D12:

We as players, we always watch people before us. 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.

Brett Deering/Getty Images

O'Neal later corrected himself, saying that he was speaking of Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez and not his brother Robin.

As an analyst for a major television network, Shaq certainly isn't validating himself as a credible TV personality, as Orlando Magic reporter John Denton tweets.

For someone who's supposed to be an NBA expert, Shaq's comments don't exactly have much stock.

Howard, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year and six-time NBA All-Star, consistently ranks among the top players in the NBA in terms of points per game, rebounds and blocks, while Lopez struggled just to stay on the court last season.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

For his career, Howard averages 18.4 points, 12.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game, and he has been one of the NBA's top big men since '04-'05.

Lopez, who has never made an All-Star appearance, has averaged 17.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game during his four-year career, all with the Nets.

Statistical comparison? Possibly, but no big man in the NBA demands the type of attention that Howard does.

And while it's less of a stretch to compare Howard to new Philadelphia 76ers center Andrew Bynum, Shaq's comments still stick with the 6'11" Howard (per Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com):

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. 

Howard is absolutely correct. Shaq's time is up, and his colorful comments will only add fuel to the fire that is Howard in a Lakers uniform alongside greats Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash.

After spending eight years in Orlando and having zero rings to show for it, Howard is anxious to bask in the championship glory that Bryant knows all too well. 

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Playing in the same city where O'Neal earned three NBA championships, you can bet Howard will go all out to bring a title to L.A. in '12-'13, not only to further establish himself as the NBA's best big man, but now to further shove it down O'Neal's throat. 

Howard has never played with a point guard or shooting guard of the caliber of a Nash or Bryant, and you can expect the Lakers' pick-and-roll game to be on point this season. With a rich personality, the Lakers' new center will thrive in L.A.'s media market.

D12 had a negative reputation after signing with the Lakers—given his tumultuous relationship with the Magic—but Shaq's words only benefit Howard and the Lakers this season.

In a new atmosphere playing alongside veteran All-Stars, you can expect a monster season from Howard, and he now has Shaq to thank for it.

 

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