When the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Russell Westbrook this past offseason it was with the intention of fielding a championship team.
With 51 games in the books, it’s safe to say that hasn’t happened. LA is 24-27 and currently struggling to squeeze into the Western Conference playoff race.
A big reason for the team’s woes has been the play of Westbrook. He is the in the midst of a wholly unimpressive statistical campaign, but the issues stretch beyond that. He is just an awkward fit with this Lakers group because of how he plays the game.
A few weeks back, Shaquille O’Neal had some stern – but thoughtful – words for Westbrook. He very clearly wanted to deliver a message to the former league MVP that he felt would benefit him, long-term.
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) January 26, 2022
On Tuesday, during a practice session with the media, Westbrook was asked about what O’Neal said to him.
“It was just talking about changing speeds and different things,” Westbrook said, per Silver Screen and Roll. “When somebody like Shaq is seeing and watching the game, I’m always big on listening to my elders and listening to the ones that were before me.
“Shaq was giving me some good advice about changing speeds at different times coming up the floor, which was very helpful not just in that game but as I watch myself moving forward and trying to continue doing that the rest of the year.”
For what it’s worth, statistically Westbrook has improved since him and O’Neal had that brief talk. It hasn’t done much for the Lakers as a whole, given that the squad is 1-2 since that night, but obviously there are extenuating circumstances there beyond just Westbrook’s control.
It will be interesting to see where Westbrook goes from here. For better or worse, it feels like the Lakers are stuck with him. There was some chatter about a Westbrook-for-John Wall trade with the Houston Rockets (the proposal was so legit that even Wall offered his take on it), but that’s pretty much it as far as opposing team interest in acquiring him.
The video speaks for itself. https://t.co/lRniycVCSO
— Game 7 (@game7__) February 2, 2022
If LA can somehow get it together from this point forward and win a title, obviously O’Neal’s contribution to getting Westbrook’s mind right will go down in franchise lore. But at the moment, that doesn’t appear to be where the smart money’s at.