- Arash Markazi, ESPN Staff Writer
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LOS ANGELES -- It seems being too nice is becoming a growing trend among NBA players in Los Angeles.
One day after Chauncey Billups said his Los Angeles Clippers teammate Blake Griffin was "too nice," Shaquille O'Neal said the same thing about Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard but was slightly more pointed with his criticism.
"He's too nice," O'Neal said Tuesday on "The Max and Marcellus Show" on ESPNLA 710. "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."
Howard has followed a similar path in the NBA as O'Neal. He was the former No. 1 pick of the Orlando Magic and led Orlando to the NBA Finals before taking his "Superman" act to Hollywood to join the Los Angeles Lakers. Howard, however, is considering leaving Los Angeles as a free agent this summer.
Some believe the pressure of playing in Los Angeles and living up to the legacy of former big men such as Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and O'Neal might be too much for Howard, who might be content in a small market with smaller expectations. O'Neal hopes that's not the case with Howard.
"I just know when it comes to pressure, you either run away from it or you handle it," O'Neal said. "The first day I got to the Forum, the great Jerry West said, 'Son, look up.' And I saw Kareem's jersey, Wilt's jersey and all the great jerseys. He said, 'Shaq, I know you do movies, I know you do albums, but you need to get at least two or three championships while you're here or this move will be considered a bust.' So for me, it was a lot of pressure but I like the pressure. Especially when you see other greats say that he's like a Wilt or he's like a Kareem. I knew I had to step up.
"He should have known all of this when he signed with L.A. He should have known what he was getting into. My advice to him is to look pressure in the face and give it the one-two combination and knock it out."
O'Neal said he relished the pressure and made it his goal to be the best center in Lakers history.
"Kareem was the best big man in Lakers history, and I wanted that title," O'Neal said. "That's the attitude he needs to have. All the giggling and smiling [is] too much. The fact that he's the so-called best big man in the league and doesn't get doubled every time, that's telling me something. That's telling me teams respect him but they don't fear him. I would rather be feared than respected."
Howard has heard O'Neal's criticisms in the past and has usually brushed them off, but O'Neal said he's hard on Howard because he wants him to be better than he is and live up to his potential.
"I think it's my duty to help this young man become one of the best big men in the league," O'Neal said. "I'm from the old school. I'm not doing it nicely. I'm pushing buttons, I'm talking about you and I'm doing it like this. ... I think it's my job as a former big man to get him to play up to par.
"When I was in L.A., Kareem and Wilt never spoke to me. They never said two things to me. I took that as a, 'OK, you all don't think I'm as good as you yet. Well, watch this.' That's what it was -- motivation. Everything I say should be taken as motivation. He's the best big man in the league, and it's my job to make sure he plays that way. Period."
O'Neal said Howard never has reached out to him for advice and he doesn't want him to.
"I don't want him to reach out to me," O'Neal said. "I want him to get into the 'Forget Shaq' mode and [say], 'Watch this.' He doesn't even have to reach out to me."
4dEthan Sherwood Strauss
5dMatt Walks, ESPN.com