The Los Angeles Lakers will likely see their fortunes change only if Russell Westbrook finds a way to produce consistent high-quality performances when next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the court.
Davis recently called on Westbrook to “stay in the attack mode” when L.A.’s Big 3 plays together. The 2017 NBA MVP has even had Lakers legend Shaquille O’Neal advising him on what adjustments to make for the team’s 2021-22 project to work.
O’Neal engaged in a brief courtside chat with Westbrook when he watched the Purple and Gold’s victory over the Orlando Magic last month. He then explained on NBA on TNT he had told the 33-year-old guard about the importance to slow his game down.
Westbrook said he appreciates O’Neal’s advice.
“When somebody like Shaq is seeing and watching the game, I’m always big on listening and listening to my elders and listening to the ones that came before me,” the Lakers’ guard said.
“Shaq was giving me some good advice on just changing speeds at different times, which was very helpful. Not just for that game, just as I watch myself moving forward. But I’m trying to continue do that throughout the rest of the year.”
Westbrook seems to have applied some of O’Neal’s wisdom as over the last seven games, he has committed fewer turnovers and shot with better field goal and 3-point shooting percentages compared to his season averages.
“Yeah, just taking my time,” Westbrook said of his recent performances. “Focusing on what I can control, focusing on me and making sure that I’m playing the right way, playing the right basketball, making the right plays.
“Just trying to be effective and efficient along the way and that’s all that I’ve been focusing on throughout however many games it’s been.”
Westbrook: It’s 0-0 when you get to playoffs
Although the Lakers tumbled three games below the .500 mark after the loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Westbrook isn’t concerned about the growing gap between L.A. and the top Western Conference teams in the standings.
“It’s always in reach,” Westbrook said. “When you get to the playoffs, it’s 0-0… That’s just how I feel. I feel that when you get to the playoffs, it doesn’t really matter, whatever their record is it doesn’t really matter. You get in the playoffs it’s 0-0 and the best team wins at that particular time of the year.
“If you’re playing better than the eight seed or 1 seed, 2 seed, whatever that may be, it don’t really matter.”
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