O’Neal’s comments are not completely unwarranted. Since 2012 when Howard was traded from the Magic to the Lakers, he has failed to stick anywhere and has created negative headlines for himself everywhere he went. It’s part of the reason that he’s played on seven different teams since that trade — including what is now two separate stints with the Lakers.
Luckily, O’Neal offered legitimate constructive criticism following his harsh jabs at the troubled center. He told Howard that if he actually remains focused and stops messing around, he finally has the right teammates around him to be successful, according to Nick Schwartz of USA Today:
“My message to the great Dwight Howard is, I know everybody’s counting you out. I know everybody’s messing with you. But if you dig deep down and play with that anger, and play with that ferocity, and stop kidding around…. Use LeBron and Kyle Kuzma, because you’ve actually got a good team.”
O’Neal compared this opportunity Howard is getting with the Lakers to what he had with the Miami Heat, a chance to prove that he could still be a great center at 34-years-old:
“In Miami, I was 34, same as Dwight. On my way out. People thought I was washed up when I left LA, but I dug deep down. I said ‘you know what? I can do this.’ If he does everything like he’s supposed to do – focus, no joking, no playing – just dig deep down and really, really want it, they could possibly win.”
Howard has his work cut out for him as remaining focused has never exactly been what he’s about. But for once, he actually has a team capable of winning a championship on his side with two future Hall of Fame teammates in LeBron James and Anthony Davis to keep him in check.
If Howard can’t make it work with the Lakers, then it’s likely the end of the road for him in the NBA. However, if he can make it work, then this could be a great bargain signing for the Lakers.
Hopefully, Howard can take some of what O’Neal is saying to heart in order to figure out a way to make this work.