Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal became a major talking point recently when he decided to take a shot at Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell during an interview. O’Neal told the young All-Star that he didn’t believe he had what it takes to “get to the next level.” Things got awkward as Mitchell was clearly taken aback by the comments.
It seems unlikely that O’Neal intended for the comments to come off as mean spirited as they did but the interview certainly caused a bit of a stir. On an Instagram post defending the Hall of Famer for his comments, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James made it clear that he didn’t appreciate what O’Neal was doing.
“There’s a difference between constructive criticism and soft hating though,” LeBron wrote. “I’ve seen it both ways come my way, mostly the hate. You can hear it in their delivery.”
LeBron has certainly received his fair share of hate from former players throughout his career so he understands what Mitchell is going through. It’s possible that O’Neal was just trying to help motivate the young star but it didn’t really come off that way.
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Mitchell Has Been Playing Very Well This Season
The strangest thing about O’Neal’s decision to go after Mitchell was the fact that it came right after he led his team to a win and scored 36 points. Also, the Jazz are only half a game behind the Lakers for the top seed in the Western Conference. Plus, Mitchell is averaging 24.3 points a game right now, which is a career-high for him.
He’s one of the best young guards in the game right now and he’s leading one of the NBA’s hottest teams. It would be one thing if Utah was losing but they aren’t. Regardless of what O’Neal says, Mitchell is an emerging superstar and only seems to be getting better. Perhaps he’ll actually use the comments as motivation and it will help him take his game to the next level.
Jazz Could Pose Interesting Threat to Lakers
The Lakers would be unwise to underestimate the Jazz as a real threat in the Western Conference. They’ve won seven games in a row and have a very talented roster. Mitchell and Rudy Gobert have both played in All-Star games while Mike Conley is one of the better point guards in the NBA.
Jordan Clarkson is an elite bench player and Quinn Snyder is a respected head coach. The thing that likely held Utah back last year is their youth. Mitchell is their best player and he’s only 24-years-old. Unlike most teams in the NBA, the Jazz actually have a big man who could possibly slow Anthony Davis down in Gobert. Obviously, even the best defenders have a hard time slowing Davis down but Gobert is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year winner. If anybody can stop him, it’s the Frenchman.
The Lakers experience gives them a big edge over Utah but if they get hot in the playoffs, Los Angeles will have their hands full if the two teams play.