Dwight Howard and Shaquille O'Neal, fake hugging (Getty Images)
Pointing out that Shaquille O'Neal needlessly prattles on about an endless array of perceived slights is pretty old at this point, but before this season we were only treated to that noise during the odd postgame interview. Now that Shaq is spending time in Atlanta, working on set for NBA TV and TNT, we're to be reminded of whatever's annoying Shaq that particular week. Sometimes, it's charming.
In the case of his inability to cede a slight amount of credit to Orlando Magic All-Star big man Dwight Howard? It's more sad than anything. Howard's the best center in the NBA by a country mile (you thought I was going to make a joke about free-throw shooting, didn't you?), and yet O'Neal still strangely goes out of his way to declare Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum as the best big man in the NBA.
Howard, as you'll see in this video from NBA.com (which we hope to have embedded here at BDL soon), is as tired of Shaq's needling as we are. In the clip, Howard echoes our thoughts about apparent protocol behind nickname "ownership," and kindly asks Shaq to "sit down and get on with his life."
[ Related: Howard's big night carries Magic past Lakers ]
Dwight's production has jumped over the last week or so, but it is fair to point out that the man was essentially sleepwalking through games to start what will probably be his last season with the Orlando Magic. But even with that dodgy beginning and Bynum's fantastic start to 2011-12, Andrew still wasn't in Dwight's rarefied air. Now that things have settled a bit, Howard's overall Player Efficiency Rating of 26 still outclasses Bynum's 21 mark; and even if Kobe Bryant begins spoon-feeding Bynum look after look in the low post he'd still have a ways to go even considering those improved statistics.
Bynum is fantastic. He's the best center in the Western Conference, and his per-minute production has been stellar for five seasons now. He is, at times, an effortless scorer that can put Howard to shame with moves on either block, and the Lakers badly missed his defensive presence when Bynum sat out the first four games of the season due to an NBA suspension.
But, but … Dwight Howard, man. The guy is the best center in the game. Even when he's skulking around.
And Shaq, who chafed at Howard's supposed theft of his Superman persona years ago, just needs to get over it. The pampered, petulant athlete bit works when you're an actual athlete. But as a gabby wonk on a TV show? Silly biases and harbored grudges don't tend to go over as well. Especially when even fair weather NBA fans and viewers can see right through you.
We're enjoying the heck out of O'Neal's turn on NBA TV and TNT this year. Like Howard, even at his worst O'Neal still has quite a lot to offer, and his presence on the set far outshines ESPN's milquetoast coverage. He's at his best as the goofball, though, and not the spurned giant in winter. Let it go, man.
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- Dwight Howard
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