LOS ANGELES -- Dwight Howard’s old avatar on Twitter used to be a picture of him in a Los Angeles Lakers uniform with the retired jerseys of George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal hanging behind him.
Howard was expected to follow the Lakers’ Hall of Fame lineage of centers but decided to leave L.A. less than a year after joining the team to sign with the Houston Rockets last week.
The two living legends in Howard’s old avatar, which he immediately changed after committing to Houston, have not taken the news well.
On Monday, Abdul-Jabbar chimed in on Twitter and Facebook and wrote, “Dwight Howard is a perfect example of the fact that ‘potential has a shelf life.’ Laker fans should be patient and allow Mitch & company to prepare themselves to do some serious work in the free agent market.”
O’Neal, while speaking at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, said he wasn’t surprised by Howard’s decision to take less money to leave Los Angeles for a smaller market.
"It was expected," O’Neal said. "We've all been in L.A., and not a whole lot of people can handle being under the bright lights. Everybody wants to do it, but when you get there, there are certain pressures. I think it was a safe move for him to go to a little town like Houston. That's right, little town. I said it."
Both O’Neal and Abdul-Jabbar were critical of Howard even before he decided to leave the Lakers.
Abdul-Jabbar told the San Francisco Chronicle last month he met Howard only once and that Howard expressed an interest in learning from the former Lakers captain but he never again reached out to Abdul-Jabbar. “He's charming, he's charismatic, very nice young man,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “Maturity-wise, he doesn't get it."
When Abdul-Jabbar was asked about teaching Howard the sky hook, he said, “At least he'd have an offensive move.
“He gets the ball on offense, oh my God, he doesn't know what to do. It's usually a turnover, people come and take the ball from him or tie his arms up. Offensively, he doesn't get it. Hasn't made any progress. We (the Lakers, when Abdul-Jabbar was a special assistant coach) played them in '09, and when I saw him this past season, he was the same player.”
O’Neal was just as harsh in his criticism of Howard when he was on ESPNLA 710 last month.
“He's too nice," O'Neal said. "I'm a connoisseur of giggling and playing and all that and making you laugh and playing with the fans, but when I cross that line, I'm ready to tear your face off. I don't care who it is. You could put one of my aunts or uncles out there, and I'm going to give him these elbows in their chest and I'm going to throw it down in their face. That's what you have to do. ... He's just too nice. If I was him, I would get into the same mood I was in."