The Los Angeles Lakers acquired Russell Westbrook last year with the intention of him, LeBron James and Anthony Davis forming a power trio.
At the time, the hope was that they would be able to compete with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden of the Brooklyn Nets.
While the Nets ended up imploding in their own special way, the Lakers somehow fared even worse. Whereas Brooklyn at least made the playoffs in the East, L.A. couldn’t qualify for the postseason in the West.
This week, Lakers legend Shaquille O’Neal offered his thoughts on where Westbrook and Los Angeles went wrong last year.
“I think he was just, and I say this respectfully, I just think he was showing too much respect,” Shaq said of Westbrook in an interview with Uproxx.
“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.”
As far as Shaq was concerned, Westbrook’s biggest fault in 2021-22 was 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,” Shaq continued.
“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.”
Whatever the problem was for Westbrook, he definitely had a problem of some sort. The proof is in the pudding – L.A. was awful in 2021-22.
There’s a reason the Lakers are desperately trying to trade him.
Sauqon Barkley is having an MVP-caliber weekend on and off the field. https://t.co/z4RNF8d0hK
— Game 7 (@game7__) September 12, 2022
This week, word emerged of a potential dark horse suitor for Westbrook’s services. If that trade materializes, it would solve a lot of the franchise’s problems.
Should it not, though – don’t be surprised if the Lakers come into 2022-23 looking even worse than they did last season.