Shaq: Houston 'safe move' for Dwight

Updated: July 7, 2013, 11:47 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Shaquille O'Neal says the Los Angeles spotlight was too bright for Dwight Howard.

Shaq" We've all been in L.A., and not a whole 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. That's right, little town. I said it.

-- Shaq on Dwight Howard

Speaking at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, Shaq hammered his former colleague as if they were battling in the post.

O'Neal opened his mouth agape when asked about Howard, who chose to leave the Lakers for the Houston Rockets late Friday, and joked about cheering on Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick in Saturday night's race.

A few seconds later, he threw an elbow Howard's way.

"It was expected," Shaq said. "We've all been in L.A., and not a whole 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. That's right, little town. I said it."

Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson, meanwhile, shared his thoughts on Howard's decision through his Twitter account Sunday morning, writing that he believes the Lakers will be fine.

Howard chose the Rockets over the Lakers on Friday night, saying he believes Houston gives him the best chance to win an NBA title.

"I just looked at both teams and I felt like Houston was going in one direction -- they got a lot of young players, they got a good coach in Kevin McHale and I just felt like having him as a coach, he could really help me in the post and help me develop like I want to," Howard said in an interview with ESPNLosAngeles.com. "That was mainly the big reason right there, and having the opportunity to grow with a team, a young team, like the Rockets. That's the reason why [I decided to leave]."

Howard ended up spending just one season with the Lakers, averaging 17.1 points and 12.4 rebounds in 76 games.

"It was tough," Howard said of leaving Los Angeles. "I enjoyed, for the most part, living here in L.A. I just really think the timing in L.A., it wasn't right for me. Maybe two years ago, or 2-3 years from now, it would have been the right time. But I just think right now the timing was off for me. That's not saying that L.A. is a bad place, but I just think it's all about timing and fit when you're talking about basketball. You can put anybody together on the court and expect them to win, but the pieces have to really fit in order for a team to be successful and it was very, very tough, man. It's probably one of the toughest decisions I've ever had to make in my life."

Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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