The NBA is back, which means it’s time for overreactions. No seriously, Russell Westbrook’s flat debut with the Lakers has one Hall of Famer calling him a role player.
That would be Shaquille O’Neal, who thinks Westbrook is no longer a star in the league. Westbrook, 32, was acquired from Washington via trade in July, after averaging a triple-double for the fourth time in his career.
“I see Russ as a role player, a damned good one, but he’s a role player,” said O’Neal, on NBA on TNT on Thursday. “It’s LeBron first, AD second and then Russ.”
While Westbrook did not play well on Tuesday and he’d admit that himself, to call the 2016-2017 MVP a role player seems far-fetched. The eight points on 4-of-13 shooting was not up to snuff but implementing a ball-dominant guard alongside stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis will take time, as expected.
We have precedent that it will take the “Big Three” time to get adjusted, just as all the other ones that we’ve seen did. The Miami Heat did not throttle teams in 2010 when James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh joined forces in South Beach. They started the season 9-8, with the entire media declaring the experiment a failure.
But that team was too talented to fail, as was evident when they embarked on a 12-game winning streak in December and were in the NBA Finals at the end of the season. The Lakers, just like the Celtics, Heat and Warriors before them, have too much talent not to figure it out. James has always figured it out and we should expect to see Westbrook find his niche in the offense as the season goes on. Not as a role player, but as a do-it-all contributor in the starting lineup.