Speaking at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, Shaq hammered his former colleague as if they were battling in the post.
O'Neal opened his mouth agape when asked about Howard, who chose to leave the Lakers for the Houston Rockets late Friday, and joked about cheering on Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick in Saturday's race.
A few seconds later, he threw an elbow Howard's way.
"It was expected," Shaq said. "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."
O'Neal didn't want to spend much time talking about Howard, though, and quickly tried to stay focused on favourite driver Patrick.
"Danica Patrick is one of my favourites. I hope she wins. She's very feisty. I love the way she competes," O'Neal said.
Asked later what specifically he liked about Patrick, O'Neal was quite specific.
"Honestly? She's hot. Smokin'," O'Neal said. "Hey, Danica, call me. Danica, call me."
"Don't do it," comedian Adam Sandler responded.
The big man got to briefly meet the diminutive Patrick at the pre-race driver meeting. He removed his hat from the top of his head, placed it over his heart and told Patrick "I'm a huge fan." He then asked her if she'd pose for a photo, which she eagerly did, passing off her own phone to make sure someone got a shot for her to keep.
O'Neal served as one of the grand marshals for the race at Daytona, joining Sandler and fellow comedian Kevin James. The trio was on hand to promote their movie "Grown Ups 2." They sang the command to start engines, a rendition that was widely panned on social media sites.