There are a lot of reasons people point to as to why the Los Angeles Lakers’ star trio of LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis didn’t work last season. While injuries were the biggest cause of the Lakers’ issues, Westbrook took the brunt of the blame as well.
While Westbrook was the only one of the three to remain healthy, playing in 78 games, his problems with perimeter shooting, turnovers and defense made him an easy target for scrutiny. But one Lakers legend has his reasons for why Westbrook truly struggled.
In an interview with Bill DiFilippo of Uproxx.com, Shaquille O’Neal said that he believes Westbrook showed too much respect instead of going and playing the way he knows how:
“I don’t think it was his age. I think he was just, and I say this respectfully, I just think he was showing too much respect. I don’t care who I’m playing with it, I’m giving you 28. Fans pay a lot of money for me to make $100 million, I’m giving you 28. It’s not, “every time I get the ball, look for the other stars,” he can play, too, so when I got the ball, I’m gonna do my thing. I can’t do my thing, I’m looking for him. That’s how you got to play. You just can’t concede all the time — here, here, here. Nah, throw me the ball, let me go to work. I gotta average 28 and 15 for personal reason and for these fans.
“He was just being too nice. I don’t know the relationship between him and LeBron, but if you put that down on paper and I don’t know nothing about basketball, that’s a hell of a backcourt, Russell Westbrook and LeBron James. Why it didn’t work, I don’t know, but watching him play, he was super passive. I don’t need you to be passive, I need you to play your game. I’ll be calling plays, when you get the ball after they miss a shot, run, if you ain’t got nothin, pull it out, give it to LeBron, and call some plays. That’s how it was me, he was just thinking too much. He’s a guy that, when he plays freely, he’s a monster.”
This very much falls in line with what Westbrook said after the season in that he believes he was never really given the chance to be himself. O’Neal definitely was correct in that at some points of the season Westbrook became extremely passive and seemed to lose confidence in himself.
The issue in O’Neal’s thinking is that Westbrook going off and playing his game would then take the ball out of the hands of arguably the greatest playmaker the NBA has ever seen in James.
Finding the right role between Westbrook, LeBron, and Davis is the task put in front of new Lakers head coach Darvin Ham and he believes he can get the most out of Westbrook. If he is able to do so, the Lakers will be set to surprise a lot of people when the season kicks off.
Westbrook hasn’t requested but is reportedly open to trade from Lakers
All of this, of course, is assuming Westbrook remains with the Lakers as he has been part of trade rumors all offseason long. The point guard has remained quiet throughout and his actual desires have been unknown.
But reportedly, Westbrook would be open to a deal from his hometown team. While it was made clear that he has not requested a trade, the point guard would be open to one, it would simply be a matter of the Lakers finding the right deal and a team willing to take Westbrook on.
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!