O'Neal, a four-time NBA champion who currently serves as an NBA analyst for TNT, told reporters at the Daytona International Speedway on Saturday that Howard is simply ducking the spotlight by taking his talents to Texas.
"The Dwight Howard thing, it was expected," O'Neal said, according to the Associated Press. "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."
Howard announced his plans to sign with the Rockets on Friday.
“I’ve decided to become a member of the Houston Rockets,” Howard wrote in a Twitter post. “I feel it’s the best place for me and I am excited about joining the Rockets and I’m looking forward to a great season. I want to thank the fans in Los Angeles and wish them the best.”
He leaves the Lakers after just one season, having been acquired from the Magic in a four-team trade last summer.
“We have been informed of Dwight’s decision to not return to the Lakers,” GM Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. “Naturally we’re disappointed.”
O'Neal signed with the Lakers as a free agent in 1996 and went on to win titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002 in LA.
The back-and-forth between O'Neal and Howard has gone on for a number of years. O'Neal has suggested that Howard's post game is lacking, that Howard isn't the best center in the NBA, and that Howard shouldn't use the "Superman" nickname, which O'Neal used during his career.
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who teamed up with O'Neal for three titles, reacted to Howard's decision by posting a photograph of himself with Lakers forward/center Pau Gasol on Instagram. According to the 2010 census, Los Angeles was the United States' second-largest city with a population of nearly 3.8 million. Houston ranked No. 4 with a population of nearly 2.1 million.