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|In a battle of Supermen past and present, Shaq and Dwight Howard tangled around the hoop.|
“All season he's held his tongue. Repeating quotes about accepting a sidekick role to LeBron James and just wanting to be a role player, often referring to himself as a "tender 38," when that birthday hasn't even arrived yet. But this time he was ready to be the old Shaq and do it at Howard's expense, apparently for liking the same superhero and playing the same position in the same town where O'Neal started. "When I was coming up and there was Pat Ewing and Hakeem [Olajuwon], I never doubled anybody," O'Neal said. "You tell me who the real Superman is." Then more he talked, the more venom he released, a soothing of his ego and a return to his years of waging psychological warfare on his opponents in the media. He even started quoting Jay-Z. "Don't compare me to nobody. I'd rather not be mentioned, I'm offended," O'Neal said. When O'Neal was introduced in Cleveland back in July, three different times he said the Cavs would not be double-teaming centers. Once he said it to Cavs coach Mike Brown's face, creating some discomfort on the stage. What O'Neal really meant was not double-teaming Howard, which O'Neal saw the Cavs do from a courtside seat in the Eastern Conference finals in Orlando. The Cavs haven't this season, and they're now 2-0 against the Magic. There's pride that it is working and pride that the Magic don't play him the same way, a green light to take more shots at Howard, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. "Don't let them double-team me and make it a him versus me thing," O'Neal said. "Been doing it 18 years straight. Hakeem, Ewing, Rik Smits, [Tim] Duncan, [David] Robinson, the best of the best, straight up. I never doubled nobody. Nor have I ever asked for a double-team. If want to bang and push, let's bang and push. You're all giving away [Superman] titles, it's crazy." There is indeed some craziness. It probably will be renewed a week from Sunday when the Cavs travel to Orlando for another meeting. A chance for O'Neal's personal rivalry to be restoked, whether Howard acknowledges it or not. His teammates know; they've seen the commercials, too. "The whole Superman thing kind of bothers him," James said with a smirk, purposely understating the situation. "That's definitely his nickname, and the fact that everybody kind of gave Dwight his name kind of bothers him a little bit." Brian Windhorst covers the Cavs for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, more of his coverage can be found at cleveland.com/cavs.
When I was coming up and there was Pat Ewing and Hakeem [Olajuwon], I never doubled anybody. You tell me who the real Superman is. ” -- Cavs center Shaquille O'Neal