The rivalry between Shaq and Dwight Howard goes back to Howard’s early years with the Magic – specifically when he tried to adopt the “Superman” monicker for himself. Considered one of Shaq’s many nicknames, the elder big man didn’t take kindly to the young up and comer storming his way onto the scene. This caused some friction between the two and Howard’s struggles to live up to his fullest potential have drawn some lighthearted poking from Shaq over the years as well.
That said, Shaq seems to have Howard’s back these days as the journeyman center looks to redeem his one unfortunate season for the Lakers in 2012-2013.
Shaq Calls Lakers’ Dwight Howard ‘The Missing Link’
Shaq would essentially tell Dwight that if he plays with anger and ferocity, the team has the pieces in place around him to be dominant. Citing a number of elite scorers that Howard should be able to share the court alongside, he won’t need to exert much effort on the offensive end and can instead focus on doing what he does best – snatching up rebounds and protecting the rim.
While JaVale McGee looked excellent last year, he struggled at times to hold the league’s larger big men in check. In Dwight, the Lakers have an option at center that can go toe to toe with the interior bruisers like Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic. While Howard is far from the three-time defensive player of the year that he was in his early career, he still allows the Lakers to have some rim protection on the court at all times while giving them a stopper for what currently looks to be a weak spot defensively.
While he doesn’t stretch the offense out behind the three-point line like DeMarcus Cousins did, the value he brings to the team from a defensive standpoint makes the Dwight Howard signing a crucial one and one that could prove to be pivotal come a grueling playoff series against one of the league’s elite big men.
Other Lakers Free Agency Newcomers
While the Lakers were able to retain some of their key players in free agency, they added a number of fresh faces to the mix and look like an entirely different team compared to last season’s youth movement. Gone are almost all of the young players – save for Kyle Kuzma and Alex Caruso – instead replaced with savvy veterans like Danny Green, Avery Bradley, and Jared Dudley. The Lakers made shooting a priority as well this offseason and landed long-range snipers like Quinn Cook and Troy Daniels to the mix as well.
With seemingly much better floor spacing surrounding LeBron along with the addition of Anthony Davis via trade, it seems the Lakers have built a team that looks much more similar to James’ winnning teams in the past. Last season was the first time since 2004-2005 that LeBron James missed the playoffs and doing so again could cause the King to seriously reconsider coming back for his fourth season with the purple and gold once his contract allows him to walk.
That said, assuming injuries don’t derail this season like they did for last year’s bunch, it seems most likely that the Lakers find themselves at the top of the NBA’s Western Conference once again.