Houston Rockets: Shaq & Barkley Comment on Dwight Howard and the Rockets Title Chances

By Phillip Pyle

Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets made a huge adjustment this off-season with the addition of All-Star center Dwight Howard. USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick sat down with Shaquille O’Neal, and  Charles Barkley, to discuss the Rockets chances this season.

Here is an excerpt:

Can Howard take the Rockets to the next level?

Shaquille O’Neal, the one-time Los Angeles Lakers legend who has consistently been critical of Howard: “I don’t think so. I don’t think so. Believe it or not, it ain’t about him. But if he leads by good example and the others follow, they could be dangerous. They could be dangerous, but he’s in his what, ninth or 10th year? He’s been the same all those 10 years, so can he get better while working with (Rockets aide and Hall of Fame big man) Hakeem (Olajuwon)? Is that going to take him to the next level? I’m not sure. We’ll see, but I haven’t seen it. … (But) if he’s playing great ball and (James) Harden is playing great ball and everyone else is following them, they could be a dangerous team. But I don’t see them winning it right away.

“Everybody can’t handle that pressure (with the Lakers). You can’t do it by yourself. You’re playing with the Black Mamba (Kobe Bryant), and it don’t get no easier than that. You’re either going to be with the Black Mamba and it’s going to be easier than trying to do it by yourself, or you’re going to be with LeBron, or with Durant — the third choice — or with Derrick Rose, the fourth choice. You were with the No. 1 guy — it don’t get no easier than that. … I don’t know Dwight personally, but a lot of people can’t handle that pressure.”

Barkley: “I like Houston. I love what Houston is doing. It’s all the same thing — (a matter of) how much better Dwight is. No. 1, is he focused? I think the best thing that happened to him is he’s going to get a chance to work with (Rockets coach and former Celtics great) Kevin McHale every day, because his game is not close to where it should be. But Kevin McHale is the best player I ever played against, and teaching him every day is going to be monumental for Dwight. … He’s not polished offensively. He’s not even close to where he’s going to be offensively. He’s just got to develop his offensive game.”

Shaq has always been critical of Howard, for a multitude of reasons. The notion that Howard was with the #1 guy (Kobe Bryant) can be applied to this season as well, as James Harden has moved into the #1 spot at shooting guard. The so-called pressure that playing for the Lakers is, has been exaggerated over the years. Last season Dwight averaged 17.1 points per game,and 12.4 boards per. The 12.4 boards led the league, along with the second highest field goal % in the league at .578.