It's no secret that Los Angeles Lakers star Dwight Howard needs to become a more assertive presence on the court, but now his lackluster play in season No. 1 with the Lake Show is drawing criticism from a player who was in his shoes a decade ago.
Shaquille O'Neal called out Howard on The Max and Marcellus Show on ESPNLA 710 on Tuesday, claiming that Howard is "too nice" and that teams "respect him but they don't fear him," according to ESPNLosAngeles.com's Arash Markazi.
Shaq's advice to Howard?
Simple. Stop being nice and dominate by any means necessary.
Here's a look at O'Neal's comments regarding Howard (via Markazi):
He's too nice, I'm a connoisseur of giggling and playing and all that and making you laugh and playing with the fans, but when I cross that line, I'm ready to tear your face off. I don't care who it is. You could put one of my aunts or uncles out there, and I'm going to give him these elbows in their chest and I'm going to throw it down in their face. That's what you have to do. ... He's just too nice. If I was him, I would get into the same mood I was in.
While much easier said than done, O'Neal certainly makes some valid points about what it takes to be successful as a big man in the NBA. His aggressive play for L.A. from 1996 to 2004 brought three championship banners to the Staples Center. O'Neal helped the Lakers win back-to-back-to-back titles from 2000 to 2002, earning NBA Finals MVP honors each time.
So, if anyone is qualified to give Howard advice, it's the Big Aristotle.
But in all seriousness, Howard would be wise to take Shaq's comments as constructive criticism instead of hurtful shots. O'Neal clearly believes Howard can become an unstoppable force in the NBA, otherwise he wouldn't compare his journey to the one the 27-year-old center is currently on.
In terms of numbers, Howard has no defense for last season's overall performance. His 17.1 points per game were his fewest since his second season in the NBA in 2005-06, while his 12.4 rebounds per game were his fewest since year No. 3 with the Magic in 2006-07.
Sure, his field-goal percentage was better than in his final season with Orlando, but he attempted three fewer shots per game. Howard can't be content to let Kobe Bryant and others run the show. He has to win position in the paint early and look to get himself going more often.
No, a league-leading 12.4 boards per night is nothing to sneeze. But this is a player who has been averaging well over 14 rebounds per game in recent years. So, naturally, expectations are higher.
The fact that Howard led the league on the glass in one of his worst seasons as a pro in 2012-13 is telling and suggests that Shaq is right on the money with his criticism. It's all mental with Howard. His mindset is the biggest thing holding him back from becoming an unstoppable force on both ends of the floor.
Is Dwight Howard too nice?
Howard's combination of size, athleticism and talent is undeniable, but his in-game mindset is highly questionable.
O'Neal hit the nail right on the head when he mentions "crossing the line." When Howard steps onto the court, that's when he has to become a competitor whose only goal is dominating and winning basketball games.
He can't be afraid of stepping on teammates' toes or worried about protecting his reputation as a likable guy.
It takes much more than just talent to win on basketball's highest level, and Shaquille O'Neal knows that as well as anyone who's ever been there.
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