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Shaquille O’Neal sees Russell Westbrook as a “role player”

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 19: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during the game against the Golden State Warriors on October 19, 2021 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)
Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

Hall of Fame center Shaquille O’Neal stirred some controversy after the NBA’s 75th season began last night. Following new Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook’s poor debut performance, O’Neal labeled Westbrook a “role player.”

“I see Russ as a role player, a damned good one, but he’s a role player. It’s LeBron first, AD second and then Russ.”

Shaquille O’Neal

Last night’s game was one to forget for Westbrook. In the Los Angeles native’s debut with his hometown Lakers, he posted just eight points, five rebounds, and four assists to go with four turnovers. Things weren’t much better for him in the preseason, either. In four preseason games, the 9-time all-star averaged a mediocre stat line of 9.5/5.5/5.0.

Early overreaction?

Yet despite these early struggles, dubbing Westbrook a role player is rather far-fetched. After all, the 32-year old guard is only four years removed from an MVP. He also holds the record for the most career triple-doubles and led the league in assists last season.

His fit in Los Angeles next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis is far from an easy one, but he and the Lakers will have 81 more regular-season games to figure things out. James uplifted his teammate after last night’s loss to the Golden State Warriors.

“I told [Westbrook] don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s one game.”

LeBron James

Davis also reassured Westbrook in a press conference after his 33-point game in the season opener.

“My first time, I sat next to [LeBron], he looked at me, and he said, ‘You’re fine, this is Game 1’… And it’s the same thing with Russ… We said some things to him, and he smiled and things like that, so I expect him to be better in the game Friday.”

Anthony Davis

Moving forward, the Lakers will take on the defending western conference champion Phoenix Suns this Friday in a rematch of last season’s first round. Perhaps that will be the game where Westbrook puts any role player narratives to rest.

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3 responses to “Shaquille O’Neal sees Russell Westbrook as a “role player””

  1. […] O’Neal was especially direct on TNT, suggesting Westbrook is a role player. Whereas Westbrook struggles to adjust to his teammates, Anthony Davis thinks Westbrook should play […]

  2. […] O’Neal was especially direct on TNT, suggesting Westbrook is a role player. Whereas Westbrook struggles to adjust to his teammates, Anthony Davis thinks Westbrook should play […]

  3. […] O’Neal was especially direct on TNT, suggesting Westbrook is a role player. Whereas Westbrook struggles to adjust to his teammates, Anthony Davis thinks Westbrook should play […]

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