Shaq Says It's His 'Duty' To Push Dwight Howard's Buttons, Make Him Meaner

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 11, 2013

Shaquille O'Neal pulled no punches during his playing days, and he has no plans of doing so as a broadcaster.

Whether due to their similar career paths or simply their shared position, O'Neal rarely passes up the opportunity to discuss Los Angeles Lakers free-agent center Dwight Howard. And Howard could be the first to tell you that those discussions are rarely never positive in nature.

It might seem like O'Neal is just piling on Howard (that has been a developing trend in hoops circles for the past few seasons after all), but the future Hall of Famer said during an appearance on ESPN L.A.'s 790 there's a reason behind those criticisms:

Shaq: "Its my duty to help this young man (Dwight) be one of the best big men in the league—I'm not doing it nicely, I'm pushing buttons"

— ESPNLA 710 Radio (@ESPNLA710) June 11, 2013

For Howard to become the dominant big man that he has the size and skills to be, O'Neal said that he'll have to embrace the nastiness that comes with life in the NBA post. That means no more jokes, no more smiles, just a focused aggression whenever he sets foot on the hardwood:

@shaq on Dwight's mentality: "He's too nice, when I cross that line, I'm ready to tear your face off—that's the attitude he needs to have"

— ESPNLA 710 Radio (@ESPNLA710) June 11, 2013

This isn't the first time that Howard's apparent carefree attitude has been called into question, and it certainly won't be the last. And it's not an issue for Howard's own locker room but rather for that of the opposition:

Shaq says players respect Dwight Howard, but don't fear him (used DH not getting double teamed every time as proof) —on @espnla710

— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) June 11, 2013

Howard has the numbers to demand a defense's attention (career 18.3 points and 12.9 rebounds per game), but he rarely attacks his foes with the selfishness seen among many of the league's all-time greats.

O'Neal provided the blueprint for Howard to become one of those greats, but he cautioned that that's where his assistance would end. For Howard to fully realize the transformation that O'Neal and the rest of the basketball world is dying to see, that change will have to come from within:

Shaq on Dwight reaching out to him: "Nope...I don't want him to reach out to me, I want him to get into the "Forget Shaq mode, watch this."

— ESPNLA 710 Radio (@ESPNLA710) June 11, 2013