Lakers center Dwight Howard poses for members of the media during Media… (Harry How / Getty Images )
This is unexpected. Superman is fighting Superman.
Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard collided verbally Thursday with a predictably messy landing.
Howard was not thrilled with O'Neal's assertion that Philadelphia's Andrew Bynum and New Jersey's Brook Lopez were better centers than him.
"I don't care what Shaq says," Howard said flatly after Lakers practice. "Shaq played the game and he is done. It's time to move on. He hated the fact when he played that older guys were talking about him and how he played. Now he's doing the exact same thing. Just let it go. There's no sense for him to be talking trash to me. He did his thing in the league. Sit back and relax. Your time is up."
It might be just a bit awkward when O'Neal gets his No. 34 Lakers jersey retired at halftime of an April 2 game at Staples Center. Howard said he would not try to patch anything up with O'Neal before then.
"What do we need to be on the same page for?" Howard said. "I have respect for him and what he did for basketball. That's it. When my time is up, there's going to be somebody else who can do everything I can do and probably do it better. Instead of me talking about him, I'll do my job to try to help him get to where I'm at. I think that's what guys who have done it before us should do."
O'Neal has jabbed Howard in the past, calling Bynum better than him earlier this year, though it was curious for O'Neal to also put Lopez ahead of him as the game's second-best center.
The light-rebounding Lopez has never been an All-Star. Howard is a six-time All-Star and was defensive player of the year three times.
"I'm not talking about dunking, I'm talking about playing like a big man with moves," O'Neal, a TNT analyst, told NBA.com. "My man [Lopez], before he had the foot injury, was putting up nice, solid big man numbers. If you put him with a nice team around him, you can get a lot from this big man. Like if you want to go to flash and dunking and the pick and roll, you gotta go with Dwight Howard. But me, the last true original dun duda, I'm going with Andrew Bynum and [Lopez]."
"Dun duda" is slang for the best.
Lopez has career averages of 17.4 points and 7.5 rebounds in parts of four NBA seasons. He missed almost all last season with a stress fracture in his right foot. Howard has career averages of 18.4 points and 13 rebounds.
Howard has gradually added to his workload since undergoing back surgery in April to repair a herniated disk.
He took part in a five-on-five scrimmage Thursday, though with a restriction. It was actually five-on-five-on-five, with two of three teams rotating quickly on the court, providing Howard with some rest. "It doesn't look like he's hurting a bit," Pau Gasol said. "It's very good news for us."
Howard took some contact after getting fouled by undrafted rookie center Ronnie Aguilar and also dunked after a touch pass from Gasol.
He will not play Sunday in the Lakers' exhibition opener but Howard is expected back for the Oct. 30 season opener against Dallas.
Steve Blake practiced with the team less than two weeks after sustaining a bizarre puncture wound in his left foot.
Blake was injured after stepping on a spike strip in a Manhattan Beach parking lot. He was distracted momentarily when someone said hello to him.
"I learned a lesson," he said. "Keep your shoes on whenever you walk in a parking lot."
Blake is expected to be Steve Nash's backup at point guard. Chris Duhon and Darius Morris are fighting for third-string status.