There was a lot of hype surrounding Russell Westbrook’s Los Angeles Lakers debut. That hype quickly turned into disappointment as he put together a nightmare performance against the Golden State Warriors. Westbrook scored just eight points on 4 of 13 shooting.
He’s never been a great scorer but struggled in all facets of the game, only notching four assists and five rebounds. While he was putting together a dreadful performance, LeBron James and Anthony Davis looked excellent, combining for 67 points. Based on the first game, it’s clear who is third on the totem pole for Los Angeles.
Despite the fact that Westbrook is a former MVP, Lakers legend Shaquille O’Neal doesn’t see him as a third star for the team. He believes that Westbrook needs to accept that he’s just a role player.
“They still need role players, right?” O’Neal told Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. “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. He can get his stuff on the break.”
The idea of Westbrook being a role player would’ve sounded preposterous even just a season ago. However, there may be some truth to what O’Neal is saying. Davis and LeBron are clearly the team’s two best players. Westbrook should do what he can to help them if he hopes to win a championship. If he gets too obsessed with making himself look good, that could spell disaster for the Lakers.
ALL the latest Los Angeles Lakers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Lakers newsletter here!
Davis Wants Westbrook to ‘Be Himself’
The early signs for Westbrook aren’t great but he does deserve time to adjust to a new team. The Lakers aren’t going to leave him out on an island while he figures things out. He has the full support of his superstar teammates. Davis believes that Westbrook doesn’t need to try and do too much.
“I think he needs to be himself,” Davis said Tuesday’s game. “I think a lot of times, and even in the preseason, he wants to get everyone involved and rightfully so, that’s what he does. He’s averaged a triple-double so he wants to get those assists and get guys going, which opens up the lane for him. But a lot of times, when you get there they fan back out and now he has a wide-open layup or a dunk but he’s looking to pass so we just want him to be himself, be aggressive, be Russell Westbrook, be the reason why we traded for you.
“Once he does that, everyone else will figure out how to play around him. So it’s a learning experience and like I said, it’s Game 1, our first game and we’ll build around him and make him more comfortable where he can have those games that we’re used to.”
Things Can Only Go up for Westbrook
The good news for Westbrook is that he can’t play any worse than he did in the opener against the Warriors. Things will only go up from here. It’s far too early to suggest that Westbrook is going to be a bust for the Lakers.
His fit with the team will always be questionable but that doesn’t mean he won’t figure out how to make it work. LeBron is one of the smartest players in the NBA and wouldn’t campaign for a Westbrook trade just because the two are friends. That said, he may need to accept that he is essentially a role player. That’s not necessarily a bad thing if Westbrook plays like the best role player in the league.