Shaquille O’Neal is hard on Dwight Howard.
He’s harder on Howard than he is any other starting center in the NBA, including Brook Lopez and DeAndre Jordan. While criticizing the Los Angeles Lakers center, he seems to praise others as a method of putting Howard down.
Shaq recognizes that he does this; in fact, he admits he does it on purpose. But he only does it to make Howard a better and meaner player. According to Shaq, Howard’s problem is that he’s “too nice.”
Shaq told ESPNLA 710 Radio that Howard is, “too nice, when I cross that line, I’m ready to tear your face off — that’s the attitude he needs to have.” He continues by saying that, “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”.
In all fairness, there really hasn’t ever been a moment where someone crossed the line with Howard. He gets fouled — hard — but everyone gets fouled hard. Fouling is a huge part of today’s NBA game.
Howard gets negative criticism but it’s widely accepted that he’s the top center in the league despite what is being said.
For example, both the Atlanta Hawks and the Houston Rockets were reportedly fined because they violated the NBA anti-tampering policy. The reason? They can’t stop talking about Howard and the possibly that he will sign with one of their franchises.
The Los Angeles Clippers’ Chauncey Billups recently said something similar about teammate Blake Griffin, being “too nice” to ESPN First Take.
If players like Howard and Griffin lose it on the court, the league is coming for them. So are the companies they have endorsement contacts with. The NBA, as well as Nike, Adidas and Red Bull aren’t big on the players in their commercials and on their courts tearing peoples’ faces off.
No one wants to take a suspension and a fine over meaningless conflict.
Howard has been in the NBA for a long time. He’s 27 years old. Regardless of Shaq’s attempts to model him a certain way, he’s probably already pretty much the player he’s always going to be.