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Shaquille O'Neal needles Dwight Howard on departure from Lakers

Shaquille O'Neal has always been hard on center Dwight Howard. With Howard leaving the Lakers for the Houston Rockets, O'Neal was certain to get his jabs in quickly.

"It was expected," said O'Neal of Howard's defection during a news conference Saturday at Daytona International Speedway. "We've all been in L.A., and not a whole lot of people can handle being under the bright lights."

O'Neal was serving as a grand marshal for NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series race.

"Everybody want to do it, but when you get there, there are certain pressures," he continued.  "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."

O'Neal won three titles with the Lakers from 2000-2002. The team traded him when a suitable contract extension couldn't be reached, and O'Neal won a fourth championship with the Miami Heat.

Howard has one NBA Finals appearance, losing to the Lakers in the 2009 NBA Finals while with the Orlando Magic.

The free agency period began on July 1. Howard announced his decision on Friday.

Howard will join a formidable group in Houston, including James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik.

The Lakers and Rockets finished the season with identical 45-37 records. Howard spent one season with the Lakers following an off-season trade from the Magic.

ALSO:

Departure of Dwight Howard gives the Lakers a hefty luxury tax cut

Kobe Bryant 'unfollows' former teammate Dwight Howard on Twitter

Metta World Peace could depart via amnesty, saving Lakers $10 million

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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