“When he plays freely, he’s a monster”

Los Angeles Lakers legend Shaq O’Neal thought Russell Westbrook was “showing too much respect” last season, playing alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

In an interview with Bill DiFilippo of Uproxx Sports, the Hall of Famer discussed his opinion on Westbrook’s performance in the 2021-22 season. “He was just being too nice,” explained Shaq.

“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,” continued Shaq.

“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.”

According to NBC Sports, Westbrook’s usage percentage dropped to 27.3% last season, the lowest since the 2009-10 season with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He also fell short of averaging at least 20 points per game for the first time since his 2009-10 season.

Shaq on Russell Westbrook: “When he plays freely, he’s a monster”

In 78 starts with the Lakers, the two-time scoring champ averaged 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.1 assists, and 1 steal per game. To add to those statistics, he shot 44.4% from the floor and 29.8% from beyond the arc.

“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,” continued Shaq.

“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.”

Although the nine-time All-Star disappointed fans last season, it wasn’t all bad. In the Lakers’ 114–117 loss against the Charlotte Hornets on Jan. 28, Westbrook scored 35 points.

However, 30 of those points were scored in the second half alone, with 16 points generated in the fourth quarter. He shot 12-of-23 (52.2%) from the field and 3-of-7 (42.9%) from 3-point range.

It was the most points dropped by any Laker since Kobe Bryant’s 60-point performance against the Utah Jazz on April 13, 2016. That was Black Mamba’s final NBA game as well.

Russell Westbrook is now focused on the upcoming 2022-23 season. He’s ready to start over fresh under new head coach Darvin Ham. Shaq and everyone else can see Westbrook’s potential with King James and Davis. Though, it’s just untapped potential. This could be his final chance to make it work in La La Land.

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