That's status. In L.A. and in the annals of NBA history, status matters.
In this context, it's status in the form of placement atop the Mount Rushmore of the Los Angeles Lakers' greatest centers of all time. As it stands now, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, O'Neal and George Mikan are the current placeholders atop the pseudo-summit.
But Howard has already impressed in his short time with the Lakers through just a few practices, and Kobe Bryant has made it clear that the team will be Howard's when the Black Mamba calls it a career, provided Howard stays. O'Neal has never been one to hide his feelings, and he's shown Howard no respect as an elite center.
O'Neal made the assertion that Andrew Bynum is a better center than Howard, and even put Brook Lopez ahead of the new Lakers big man in the NBA's pecking order. All of it equated to a sweet symphony of drama that is status quo in L.A.
Howard fired back following Thursday's practice, and told the Los Angeles Times he's not worried about what O'Neal has to say:
"I don't care what Shaq says," Howard said. "Shaq played the game, and now he's done. It's time to move on."
It wouldn't be Los Angeles without some form of drama, and it wouldn't be the Lakers without at least some controversy or newsworthiness coming from whoever's playing center for the purple & gold. In this case, fans have a potential future Lakers Hall-of-Famer feuding with a sure-fire one. It doesn't get any better in terms of entertainment value.
Bryant has already called Howard one of the greatest defensive talents the league has ever seen on more than one occasion. That kind of comment won't sit well with the likes of a player like O'Neal, who had his own issues with Bryant as a teammate during his playing days.
One day all NBA fans should mark on their calendars is April 2, 2013. That's when Shaq will be honored by the Lakers at Staples Center and have his jersey retired. The four-letter sports network is going to have a field day with that one.
This story will only get better, and it's going to be one among many reasons to follow the team that never fails to disappoint in the entertainment department. Stay tuned.
Michael C. Jones is a Yahoo! Featured Contributor in Sports and covers the Los Angeles Lakers as a Southern California-based sports journalist, editor, and blogger. You can read him on SB Nation and Examiner.com. He is also the Editor and Founder of Sports Out West.
You can follow Michael on Twitter @MikeJonesTweets
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