Since Dwight Howard’s arrival in Los Angeles, Shaquille O’Neal has been highly demanding and critical of him. Throughout the season, O’Neal demanded “28 points and 15 rebounds” and applied a lot of pressure on Howard to perform. After deciding to join the Houston Rockets, O’Neal wasn’t surprised about Howard’s decision to leave Los Angeles.
In a phone interview with NBA TV, Shaq reiterated these comments but also came to the defense of Mike D’Antoni, who received an indirect parting shot from Howard:
“I heard a discussion about Mike D’Antoni not fitting Dwight’s style. That’s false. I played for Mike D’Antoni. He loves the big man and Dwight is a pick-and-roll big man. He has about a hundred million pick-and-roll plays to get Dwight involved.”
In addition, O’Neal criticized Howard for not making minor adjustments to his game to help the team win:
“It’s about what you do and about what you get your teammates to do, to win. Just think about it, before I was introduced to the Triangle, was I a Triangle player? I was not a Triangle player. Phil Jackson brought in that boring Triangle. I listened to what he said, but I added a little bit of my own stuff to the Triangle to it. Kobe added a little bit of his stuff to it and we got everybody to work together. That’s what you do to win championships.”
At the end of the day, O’Neal believes it’s up to the players, not the coach, to win championships:
“It has nothing to do with the coach. You know that and I know that. It has nothing to do with the coach. It has everything to do with you.”
Throughout the season, Dwight Howard wasn’t pleased with his role in D’Antoni’s system. Howard wanted to establish himself as a back-to-the-basket player when he is truly a pick-and-roll big man. It took Howard until after the All-Star break to make minor changes to his game to ultimately help the Lakers make the playoffs.
It will be interesting to see how D’Antoni is received by the fans now that a former big man who played in his system has come to his defense.
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