Shaquille O’Neal has not only been playing like his old self lately, after his Cavaliers beat the Magic Monday, he was talking like his old self as well.
“When I was coming up and there was Pat Ewing and Hakeem (Olajuwon) and I never doubled anybody. You tell me who the real Superman is. Don’t compare me to nobody. I’d rather not me mentioned, I’m offended.”
“Don’t let them double team me and make it a him vs. me thing. 18 years straight: Hakeem, (Pat) Ewing, Rik Smits, (Tim) Duncan, (David) Robinson, the best of the best, straight up. I never doubled nobody. Nor have I ever asked for double team.”
Shaq learned a few things from Phil Jackson back in the day — his “off the cuff” remarks often have a subtext and goal.
Even with what’s left of Shaq, he is hard to cover one-on-one — he is too big, too strong, too savvy in getting off his shots to really stop if he gets the ball deep on the block. But he can’t beat the double team like he once did. The Magic’s system took him largely out of the game — he had 10 points, six rebounds and sat out a lot with foul trouble.
So Shaq challenges Howard’s manhood, tries to goad him into single coverage for the next meeting. Because as good a defender as Howard is, Shaq can do some damage one-on-one. Shaq was trying to set up the two meetings left between these teams, and more importantly the playoff meetings down the line.