12:21 pm Oct. 5, 2012
The training camp controversy of the week came courtesy of Shaquille O'Neal. It involved the center the Brooklyn Nets chased for the better part of two years, Dwight Howard, and the center they signed long-term when Howard wasn't available, Brook Lopez.
As O'Neal sees it, the Nets got the better center.
"We as players, we always watch people before us," O'Neal said during a roundtable disussion on NBA.com. "When I came in it was Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon, guys who played like true centers who played inside. What we have now are centers that are going to the European style, which is a lot of pick-and-roll. Dwight Howard, who's a pick-and-roll player, some people say he's the best center in the league, but me being an old-school center, I'm going to go with Robin Lopez and Andrew Bynum because they play with their back to the basket."
Robin, of course, is Brook's twin brother, but O'Neal clarified that he meant Brook.
"Brook. Same thing. They're brothers," O'Neal responded.
Leaving aside the fact that Brook is a much better player than his brother, the more talented Lopez, despite Shaq's claims, simply isn't close to Howard's level.
If the question is shooting effectiveness, Howard's effective field goal percentage, 57.7 percent, is much higher than Lopez's 50.4 percent. Howard is one of the finest rebounders in the league, while Lopez, who entered the league as a mediocre rebounder, has gotten worse in each of his four seasons. And while Howard is an elite defender, Lopez simply isn't.
The comparison is unfair to Lopez, a very effective player by any measure. Since he entered the league in 2009, his P.E.R. of 19.2 is fourth-best of any center, tied with Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks. Andrew Bynum is second at 21.2.
And in first, by a wide margin, is Dwight Howard, at 25.0.
Shaq taking shots at Howard is nothing new. Howard, who has long regarded Shaq as a hero, seems to finally have had enough, responding that O'Neal's "time is up" and urging him to stop talking. That seems less likely than Lopez overtaking Howard in performance this season, though.
Unfortunately for Lopez, he's now set up to be absolutely torched by Howard when the two face each other on November 20 in Los Angeles. The very lack of defensive skills that help to keep Lopez from reaching Howard's level should make for an enormous night for Howard, at Lopez's expense.
It's a pretty funny statement for a man who bills himself as a "size authority." And poor Brook Lopez, in all likelihood, is going to suffer the consequences.