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Shaq says Dwight Howard couldn’t handle the pressure of playing for the Lakers (VIDEO)

Jul 6, 2013, 9:30 PM EDT

Shaquille O’Neal has taken plenty of shots at Dwight Howard over the years, so when the free agent center left the Lakers after one season and chose to sign with the Houston Rockets, we shouldn’t have expected anything less.

O’Neal was a grand marshall for a NASCAR race at the Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, and when asked to comment on Howard’s decision, he didn’t let the opportunity to get another jab in slip away.

“It was expected,” O’Neal said. “We’ve all been in L.A. and not a lot of people can handle being under the bright lights. Everybody wants to do it, but when you get there, there are certain pressures. I think it was a safe move for him to go to a little town like Houston.”

Shaq’s history of negatively commenting on Howard at every turn clearly makes him anything but an unbiased observer, here. But to a certain extent, O’Neal is absolutely right.

Howard was never able to handle the championship-or-bust situation he was thrown into last season, playing on a theoretical super-team alongside Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Steve Nash. When the injuries began to mount and the losses soon followed, Howard quickly tired of answering questions about when and how the team with so much talent would be able to turn things around.

Even as the Lakers began to right the ship in the second half of the season before Bryant went down with the Achilles injury, the 28-12 run the team went on to close the year out still wasn’t enough to make the scrutiny disappear.

For better or worse, there won’t be anywhere near that type of pressure to win in Houston. Watching Howard and the way he failed miserably to handle it during his only season in Los Angeles, there’s no question that the expectations of playing for one of the league’s most storied franchises was not something he wanted any part of dealing with for the foreseeable future.

101 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. northstarnic - Jul 7, 2013 at 12:26 AM

    The NBA soap opera. Charming.

    But of course shaq is right about dh.

    • dezglobal - Jul 7, 2013 at 10:58 PM

      Shaq was the most dominating big man in history.. and he did it on the big LA stage. D12 couldnt handle it so he went to Houston.. I agree w Shaq

  2. divan22 - Jul 7, 2013 at 12:59 AM

    If the Lakers had traded Kobe for Harden straight-up, Dwight would’ve signed with the Lakers.

    It’s not complicated. One team already had a YOUNG superstar who hasn’t even peaked yet, the other didn’t. Has nothing to do with the city or expectations, no matter how badly you’d all like to ridicule the guy’s mental makeup. He wants to win. He NEEDS to win.

    The ridicule won’t end now just because he plays for Houston. It will continue until he wins a ring, if he ever does. So this notion that he left LA to avoid the pressure is a bit off-base.

    • Anoesis - Jul 7, 2013 at 1:24 AM

      “So this notion that he left LA to avoid the pressure is a bit off-base.”

      Couldn’t disagree more with that statement.

      • divan22 - Jul 7, 2013 at 5:37 AM

        So you HONESTLY think Howard would’ve bolted even if it was the Lakers who had the young, promising roster and not the Rockets?

    • davidly - Jul 7, 2013 at 6:59 AM

      I commented before I read yours; you’re absolutely correct. He didn’t abandon the pressure so much as he left LA’s delusional expectations behind him.

    • fanofevilempire - Jul 7, 2013 at 11:39 AM

      Shaq delivered 3 BIG gold basketball trophies to the beautiful people of LA, that
      means he has the credentials to say D-12 pooped in his pants and is the first BIG MAN
      to leave LA and take his talent to another city.

      • nathpz - Jul 7, 2013 at 2:50 PM

        “the first BIG MAN to leave LA and take his talent to another city”

        The first? So Shaq played the rest of his career in a Lakers uniform? That’s news to me.

    • nathpz - Jul 7, 2013 at 2:52 PM

      Love how the comments that use logic and sense get a lot of downvotes while “Dwight can’t handle the pressure” comments get all the upvotes. Cheer up, Lakers fans, you may have lost Dwight Howard, but you still have a whole batch of sour grapes!

      • 213la - Jul 11, 2013 at 2:02 AM

        Shaq didn’t leave LA voluntarily. That’s the difference between him and Howard. Howard choose to leave and most nba players wouldn’t and don’t want to leave LA

  3. mohammadanaqvi - Jul 7, 2013 at 1:02 AM

    Shaq is stupid to say that. I’m not much of a dwight fan, but i have got to back him up here. How do you know that Dwight couldn’t handle it? You put him on a team that was unhealthy the whole season along with a crappy coach and this is what happens. There are so many negative factors that play into why LA is a bad spot short and maybe long term as well. What do you think is going to happen? You think Dwight will be positively influenced by D’Antoni and an aging roster? Wouldn’t you do the same? People look into all the money and glamour too much and forget to look at the trashy state the Lakers are actually in.

    People who say he is a loser for leaving and he couldn’t handle it…bull crap…stop making things up and use your head. He has a chance to play with a freakin 23 year old James Harden…JAMES HARDEN! So please, Houston is an ideal fit.

    He also has a chance to learn from Hakeem and improve his trashy post moves, so it will be good for him.

  4. Anoesis - Jul 7, 2013 at 1:23 AM

    Howard was well aware of the situation in L.A. when the trade was first proposed, but he was so desperate to leave Orlando he willingly misrepresented himself. Who’s to say what might have been had he shown some maturity and patience, rather than displaying disingenuity and disloyalty. Yes, it’s a business, but using someone for your own selfish reasons still makes you a world-class jerk.

  5. wledlund - Jul 7, 2013 at 1:36 AM

    How the hell is Houston little?

  6. kb2408 - Jul 7, 2013 at 1:44 AM

    Shaq is 1,000 percent correct. Dwight knows he doesn’t belong in the company of Mikan, Wilt, KAJ and Shaq. Centers for the LAKERS are EXPECTED to win “titles”, that’s plural. I know Wilt only won one in L.A. but he was past his prime by the time he got to the LAKERS. Dwight is a loser and he will never win a title. He goes to Houston and now he’s talking about learning from Hakeem. No disrespect to Hakeem but if he didn’t learn anything from the greatest center ever, Kareem, how is he going to learn from anyone? He’s a fake and a phony. He was in the land of great centers and still never developed any post moves. He was coached by Ewing and STILL never developed any post moves!! But now in Houston he’s going to learn how to do more than dunk?! Good riddance to him. The LAKERS survived and won titles after the Showtime Era of Magic/Worthy/KAJ and they won after the Shaq/Kobe Era. Surely we will win again after the Dwight “Error”.

    • loungefly74 - Jul 7, 2013 at 9:38 PM

      very true, ol friend.

      as much as I wanted Dwight to stay…I knew he wouldn’t fit.

  7. jrod2go - Jul 7, 2013 at 1:49 AM

    Is Dwight still going to be draining a solid 49% of his free throws in Houston?

    • florida727 - Jul 7, 2013 at 1:35 PM

      The lighting is better at The Toyota Center. He’ll up it to at least 50.1%. You just watch.

  8. dougmanoh - Jul 7, 2013 at 1:49 AM

    Shaq is a dork.

    • tfoz5150 - Jul 7, 2013 at 9:24 AM

      Couldn’t agree any more. The guy can’t stand not being heard making some super bafoonish statements. The only thing the guy had going for him was that he was 7 ft. , could out muscle everybody and could dunk. Other than that he had no other game. Shack Fu can go make some more Shazam movies or maybe go arrest someone for shoplifting in FL.

      As far as leaving LA for Dwight, you can make the same argument about Lebron. He could have gone to NY and made a Legacy for HIMSELF there, but he chose the softer BIG 3 route in South Beach w his buddies. As far as I’m concerned, Bron will never surpass Jordan who did it himself, until he can prove he can do it himself. (And no Scottie Pippen wasn’t a super star.)

      • rezburna - Jul 7, 2013 at 1:12 PM

        Scottie Pippen was a game away from the Finals by his self when Jordan retired. GTFOH. He’s one of the greatest defenders there ever was and a Hall of Fame player.

        In his prime he was averaging 19 ppg, 7 rpg, and somewhere around 5 apg.

        A career 16 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 5.2 apg player. .473 fgp. .704 from the line. .326 from behind the arc. You know nothing of basketball if you want to take credit away from Pippen and leave in this fantasy land where Jordan was Jesus and he did it by himself. All the while it took Pippen to get there and for Magic, Bird, and Isiah to be getting toward the ends of their careers for Jordan to finally win something.

      • Kurt Helin - Jul 7, 2013 at 1:34 PM

        The year Jordan retired (left his team?) to play baseball, the Bulls won 55 games. Nobody should doubt Jordan’s greatness, but the mythology that he did it alone is ridiculous.

      • florida727 - Jul 7, 2013 at 1:51 PM

        Jordan was the greatest “bail out” player in the game, and will probably always hold that title. When the game became a one-on-one test, nobody was better. However, basketball IS a TEAM game and what the Bulls had in Pippen was (arguably) the second best bail-out player in the game, as well as, at that time, the most athletic small forward in the game. They also had a post player whose primary function was to score early, and defend (Bill Cartwright), a defense-first, rebounding “power” forward to compliment Pippen’s slashing/athletic game (first Horace Grant, then Dennis Rodman), and a spot-up, catch-and-shoot, high-percentage 3-point expert (John Paxson, Steve Kerr). THAT was the formula they used to win 6 out of 8. (Six in a row when Jordan played the entire season.)

        To diminish Pippen’s contributions to their championship runs (two separate 3-peats) is borderline idiotic… just as it would be to say that Paxson or Kerr played no role in their titles. Take away ANY one of their puzzle pieces and they don’t win six of eight.

        Jordan always had Pippen to play off of when he was at his best. Pippen had no one to play off of when Jordan was off playing baseball, and they still challenged for a Finals appearance.

      • tfoz5150 - Jul 7, 2013 at 3:27 PM

        Yeah, but Pippen never got it done wo Jordan and he had Kukoc and Jackson along with the rest of Jordan’s cast. Not to mention when he went to Portland or Houston with other superstars, he never accomplished it there either. Im just saying he was a good complementary player. He was Robin to Jordans Batman. Hall of Famer? Don’t make me laugh. Actually a good comparison, would be Iguadola. Good, not great.

  9. davidly - Jul 7, 2013 at 6:53 AM

    Pressure or not, I think he’d’ve stuck around the “bright lights” had the team had a realistic chance to be any good. He’s not an idiot. Anyone could see that they aren’t getting any younger, so the chances for him to win it all before he turned thirty were nil. In Houston, at least his chances are more than theoretical.

    It’s one thing for “LA” to expect victory, it’s another to assemble pieces not equipped to be victorious and still expect it. What free agent wouldn’t leave under those circumstances?

  10. omniusprime - Jul 7, 2013 at 8:50 AM

    Shaq has it right saying that Dwight Coward fled from LA because he can’t handle the pressure of being a championship contender rather than the pretender he’s always been. Dwight Coward says that Kobe didn’t teach him how to be a champion, there’s a saying about leading a jackass to water but not being able to make the stubborn ass drink. Coward just didn’t bother to wipe that idiotic grin off his ugly face in order to focus on being a winner.

    I saw another headline written by some moron sports pundit that Coward made the best basketball decision. Wrong, as always sports pundits are clueless in the extreme. Coward ran away to that garbage heap in texas known as houston and now he has the problem of never, ever winning a championship in his career. All Coward did was run away from the best opportunity he ever had to win championships, because he’s afraid of working hard and being mean enough to be a champ.

    Coward is a Total Loser!!! Go Kobe!!! Go Lakers!!!

    • nathpz - Jul 7, 2013 at 2:53 PM

      “Dwight Coward fled from LA because he can’t handle the pressure of being a championship contender”

      I guarantee you the Rockets get closer to a championship than the Lakers do in 2014. I’ll bet any amount up to your net worth on it.

  11. ike73 - Jul 7, 2013 at 9:01 AM

    No need to over analyze it. He left the lakers because they’re old and they stink.

    But the lakers will never stop thinking its because he “couldn’t handle the bright lights”. Good for them. Whatever helps you sleep at night.

  12. htowntexan - Jul 7, 2013 at 10:03 AM

    Shaq’s feelings are still hurt from that time when the best center in NBA history destroyed his team in the NBA Finals. That man wore Rockets Red. Get over it old man. (And read a little so you know what a “little town” Houston is.)

  13. sportsguy88 - Jul 7, 2013 at 10:33 AM

    He figured that out all by himself?

  14. ermur22 - Jul 7, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    Why would anyone choose to live in Houston?

    • nathpz - Jul 7, 2013 at 2:55 PM

      Great food, great nightlife, diverse culture, extremely cheap. Even with the lower salary Howard has to take by not re-signing with the Lakers, he’ll take home almost $3 million more over four years because of California’s income taxes.

    • larryusa - Jul 9, 2013 at 5:08 AM

      Why don’t you ask all the Californians moving there not only for the jobs, but the better quality of life, plus the lower cost of living! You can sell your little two bedrooms homes and condos in L.A. for half a million and buy a mini mansion in Houston. The city is huge, like L.A, spread over a thousand square miles and has close to six million people. It has the fastest growing economy and population in the U.S. and is also the most diverse. I and my family were from the L.A. area, and believe me, I do not miss it at all!

    • larryusa - Jul 9, 2013 at 5:13 AM

      Why don’t you ask all the Californians moving there not only for the jobs, but the better quality of life, plus the lower cost of living! You can sell your little two bedrooms homes and condos in L.A. for half a million and buy a mini mansion in Houston. The city is huge, like L.A, spread over a thousand square miles and has close to six million people. It has the fastest growing economy and population in the U.S. and is also the most diverse. In the very nice neighborhood we moved into, we have met several families from California. I and my family were from the L.A. area, and believe me, we do not miss it at all!

  15. jeff6381 - Jul 7, 2013 at 11:30 AM

    Shaq should brush up on his cities and towns b/c last I checked Houston is the 4th largest city in the country and soon to be the 3rd so the little town remark don’t make sense. Just b/c you have Lakers on that jersey doesn’t mean you automatically win the roster sucks I would have left too oh and Lebron isn’t going there either.

    • larryusa - Jul 9, 2013 at 5:18 AM

      Yup, it will overtake Chicago in a couple of years as the third largest city in America. Right behind L.A. and New York. Texas is the second most populous state in the nation, and four, soon, five of the 10 largest cities in America are in Texas. Houston is the fourth largest city in America and will soon pass Chicago as the third, right behind L.A. and New York. Moved here a couple of years ago, love the warm weather, the low cost of living and the people. California is too crowed and overpriced, besides all the jobs are here.

  16. rueg10 - Jul 7, 2013 at 11:55 AM

    i don’t disagree that the age thing may have been a factor, but duhwight didn’t want to play with kobe, because kobe dominates the ball, and even with his mileage was one of the best players in the nba last season. did you ever think kobe’s injury may have been a factor? yes, the lakers will be rebuilding even if duhwight had signed, but they would be building around him. the players of today just want to be plugged into a system with other superstars that will take the pressure off of them. today’s players want no part of being the anchor that truly leads a team and makes the players around them better.

    and there is no way duhwight wanted to live up to the pressure… he’s not a leader… how does his offensive game compare to the great all-time centers? russell… reed… chamberlain… jabbar… moses… olajuwon… robinson…. shaq… duhwight’s game relies on athleticism only. he has no “go to” move like a lot of the great centers did. no range on his jump hook and certainly no turn-around jumper in the key. has he developed his offensive game in the nine years in the league so far? anyone who thinks duhwight wanted to follow in the footsteps of the past great laker centers knows nothing of a storied franchise like the lakers. he is better off in houston.

  17. jimeejohnson - Jul 7, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    The closer you are to Mexico, the better the Mexican food. Dwight Howard loves Mexican food so he moved to Houston, which is maybe 5 minutes closer to Mexico than L.A.! And “yes”, you can have some of what I’m vaporizing!!!

    • caeser12 - Jul 7, 2013 at 9:57 PM

      As long as it’s Super Lemon Haze, pass it!

  18. cfos00 - Jul 7, 2013 at 1:08 PM

    This isn’t exactly a shocking comment out of Shaq. Great player, petty person. The next time he says something nice about Howard will be the first. He bashed Howard as a player and a person while he was on Orlando pre-Dwightmare, during that whole thing (which Howard completely deserved—absolutely zero disagreement there), when he started getting called Superman, and when he was with the Lakers. He’s doing the same thing now. There wasn’t going to be a situation that Shaq said anything good about Howard. Shaq is about the least objective person that anyone could have asked about Howard.

    And Howard going to Houston makes all the sense in the world for him. Best young shooting guard in the league by a mile, Hall of Fame big man as a coach, an offense that actually fits his and his team’s roster, a younger team, and one of the best GM’s in the league. Compare that to an older team that completely mismatches it’s coach (who will probably be canned in the next year or so), a core with a few years at most left until rebuild mode kicks in, an owner who seems like a shadow of his father, and the decision probably really wasn’t that tricky. I have no dog in this as a Bull’s fan, but it made a lot of sense that he went there.

  19. 407magic - Jul 7, 2013 at 2:02 PM

    Funny how shaq called Houston a little town when he still lives in Orlando. Shaq has always lived in Orlando since he was drafted. Wonder why he doesn’t live in LA lol I’m sure he’s got a place there but he’s usually in Florida somewhere. C’mon shaq

    • larryusa - Jul 9, 2013 at 5:23 AM

      The Shaq just has a big mouth, like his body. He forgets that he grew up in Texas himself. Played basket at Cole H.S. in San Antonio, but now that his head is big as his feet, he now thinks all cities beside New York and L.A. are the only big cities in the U.S. Phil is a country bumpkin from North Dakota, who didn’t see a movie or go to a dance until he was in the big town of somewhere in North Dakota. They move forget where they came from and now think they are Big City Boys. These boys are nothing more than little country bumpkins from nowhere!

  20. dirtydavis - Jul 7, 2013 at 2:39 PM

    Dwight is Hollywood material, but he chose to win NOW rather than later. You can’t bash D12 because he bolted to a greater team. If there is anyone we should bash on its David Stern!!! That clown f**k everything up for the Lakers and created a domino effect . lakers are doomed !!!

  21. realfootballfan - Jul 7, 2013 at 4:13 PM

    I wouldn’t say he couldn’t handle the pressure, but rather it’s indisputable that he’s a clown who doesn’t know how or when to switch that nonsense off and raise his intensity level up. He doesn’t understand that’s a big part of the game, which was evident in that Hoops World interview he did with the whole I’m a winner rant when you haven’t won anything, nor do you have a clue of how difficult it is to win anything.

    For Dwight, he’s just playing ball and doesn’t understand the difference between that and being a professional. He’s never been on a team with players who will demand that of him and he bristled at the only coach, Van Gundy, who did.

    LBJ went through a similar transition, and he’s 10 times more serious at his worst than Dwight has ever been and immensely more talented.

  22. steelers4385 - Jul 7, 2013 at 5:27 PM

    Dwight is a girl. Period. He isnt a hard worker. And no matter how much you hate kobe…the guy is THEE top competitor on NBA. Guy will play with one leg if he can. Howard just cryed for weeks bout his shoulder or whatever. Couldnt really understand him over the blubbering. I will give this tho….lakers are being run in to ground with coaches like mike brown and d’antoni. That guy has to be the worst coach. You literally have like 3 or 4 veterans on the floor in their 30s and he wants to run up and down court full speed every gane? Give me a break.

  23. addictedzone - Jul 7, 2013 at 5:50 PM

    The Lakers are 65-1 in Vegas to win the Title next year. There is no pressure there. They’re listed below the Mavs and just above the T-Wolves and out of the top eight in the West.

  24. redstar504 - Jul 7, 2013 at 11:28 PM

    To the person that insinuated Shaq is jealous : Are you out of you mind.

    -Shaq has already been places Howard can only dream of going
    -Shaq has multiple championships
    -Shaq was the most powerful big man to play the game Howard is no where near the dominate player that Shaq was (arguable but my belief)
    – Shaq was a 3x finals MVP and was league MVP once
    – off the court Shaq does more commercials in a month than Howard will do in his life. Howard wants movies Shaq has been there done that and still doing it

    The point is Shaq has done what Howard wants to do and because of his poor attitude will never do. So why or what does Shaq have to be jealous of Howard of?

  25. spankygreen - Jul 8, 2013 at 11:51 AM

    Come on people, give Shaq the benefit of the doubt. After all, he knows about pressure. Not only could Shaq not handle the PRESSURE in LA, he couldn’t handle it in most other cities either. 52% lifetime from the free throw line….FREE THROW LINE…..Stevie Wonder could probably shoot 52%…

    I think he left because LA Sucked. Especially the coach. KOBE has been and will forever be the only bright spot in LA……take that Shaq!!!!

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