Dwight Howard gives awkward pause about Shaq’s jersey retirement, then praises him

Anytime Shaquille O’Neal’s name perks up, Dwight Howard raises his eyebrows and usually becomes stoic. See, O’Neal has constantly critiqued Howard’s game and has belittled him for taking his “Superman” nickname. Howard has constantly grown weary of O’Neal’s TNT commentary even if the former Lakers center has maintained he’s offering nothing but constructive and honest feedback.

So it was hardly surprising that Howard awkwardly remained silent for about seven seconds when asked about O’Neal’s jersey retirement when the Lakers play Tuesday against the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center. But before making the assumption that Howard would make this personal, the Lakers center promptly sang his praises.

“I’m happy for Shaq,” Howard said. “That’s a big accomplishment for any NBA player to have their jersey retired. He’s done a lot for the Lakers organization and has done a lot for the NBA. He deserves it.”

Still, Howard offered some very clear passive-aggressiven inquiries on anything regarding O’Neal.

ALthough Howard has conceded that he’s envisioned one day having his jersey retired, he said he hardly gleaned much on what he could take away from O’Neal’s eight-year career with the Lakers. After joining the Lakers via free agency in 1996, it took three seasons for O’Neal to win a championship before ultimately winning three consecutive NBA titles.

“I don’t know what he did besides win. I was too young,” Howard said. “I’m jusy happy for him. He has his jersey up there with a lot of greats.”

Howard offered more praise for former Lakers center Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar even though those two centers were way before his time.

“Wilt is my favorite of all time,” Howard said. “But I think Kareem is probably the center who had everything. He could shoot. He had the hoopk shot and offensive repertoire out of all the bigs that are up there.”

Yet, Howard held Chamberlain in higher esteem for a different reason.

“His personality and he loved to have fun and could do just about anything,” Howard said. “He played volleyball, ran track and did different things. I liked it.”

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@dailynews.com