Shaquille O'Neal says the Los Angeles spotlight was too bright for Dwight Howard.
Speaking at Daytona International Speedway, where he was grand marshal for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race, O'Neal hammered his former colleague.
O'Neal opened his mouth agape when asked about Howard, who chose to leave the Lakers for the Rockets late Friday.
"It was expected," O'Neal said. "We've all been in LA, 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 never grew comfortable playing with Lakers star Kobe Bryant and for coach Mike D'Antoni.
Once a smiling, fun-loving big guy, Howard lacked that joy in Los Angeles. The Rockets are confident the center will find it again in Houston.
"We're going to get a smile back on his face that hasn't been on it for a couple of years because of various things, injury and maybe the team situation he was in at the time," Houston GM Daryl Morey told Comcast SportsNet Houston.
Howard agreed to a four-year, $88 million maximum contract that will include an early termination option after the 2015-16 season and a 15 percent trade kicker, Yahoo Sports reported — and passed on perhaps $30 million more that the Lakers could have offered to retain him. The deal can't be signed until Wednesday, according to league rules.
Houston now suddenly looks primed to contend after being knocked out of the playoffs in the first round. "We haven't accomplished anything yet, but we're putting something pretty cool together, I think," Morey said.
Houston also agreed with Cavaliers swingman Omri Casspi on a two-year, $2.6 million deal, Yahoo Sports reported.
After playing his first eight seasons for the Magic, Howard, 27, was a big story last summer as he took months to decide on his exit from Orlando and his next destination.
But his lone season in Los Angeles was filled with unrest, including what many believed to be a less than positive relationship with Bryant, who unfollowed Howard on Twitter on Friday after the center announced his decision to join the Rockets with a tweet.
Pistons get Hawks' Smith: The Pistons nabbed one of the top free agents available, getting Atlanta's Josh Smith for a $54 million, four-year deal, the Associated Press reported. The small forward scored a team-high 17.5 points and averaged 8.4 rebounds last season. They also acquired forwards Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll, both with the Jazz last season.
More moves: The Cavs and free agent guard Jarrett Jack agreed to a four-year, $25 million deal, the AP reported. … Forward Carl Landry and the Kings agreed to a four-year, $26 million deal. … Unrestricted free agent guard Dorell Wright of the 76ers reached a deal with the Blazers for two years, $6 million. … The Mavs will sign Hawks guard Devin Harris for $9 million over three years, espn.com reported. They also will sign point guard Jose Calderon, 31, to a $29 million, four-year deal, espn.com said. … The Clippers agreed to two-year deal with former Mavs point guard Darren Collison.