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.
"If you dig deep down and play with anger and ferocity, and stop kidding around, the Lakers could win. Believe it or not, he's the missing link. He doesn't know it yet, but he is the missing link."@SHAQ's message for @DwightHoward pic.twitter.com/cqZYGHQ9de— ShowtimeForum (@ShowtimeForum) September 5, 2019
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.