Los Angeles Lakers legend Shaquille O’Neal recently apologized to Lakers forward Rui Hachimura for not knowing who he was, comparing him to a key Lakers role player from O’Neal’s time with the franchise.
O’Neal also referred to the Washington Wizards, Hachimura’s old team, as the Washington Bullets, their old name.
“I didn’t know who he was because I never watch the Bullets play, but he’s a fine role player,” O’Neal said. “He’s giving me Rick Fox vibes. Tough, pretty good defender, all the little stuff he’s doing, he does a great job. He doesn’t overdo it.”
Fox, a three-time NBA champion, was an extremely important role player alongside O’Neal and Kobe Bryant in the early 2000s.
The Lakers would certainly love it if Hachimura could serve that role on a championship team alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis this season and beyond.
Hachimura wasn’t the only player that the Lakers brought in before the trade deadline to improve their roster.
Los Angeles also traded guard Russell Westbrook and draft compensation in a deal that brought D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt to the Lakers. Then, Los Angeles flipped Patrick Beverley to the Orlando Magic for center Mo Bamba.
Those moves should help Los Angeles compete for a playoff spot this season, even though the team enters the league’s All-Star break with the No. 13 seed in the Western Conference.
The Lakers will need to make a run over their final 23 games, and it appears O’Neal thinks that Hachimura will help them do that.
Since joining Los Angeles, the former lottery pick is averaging 10.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game while shooting 46.4 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from beyond the arc.
He’s started eight of the 11 games that he’s played in for Los Angeles, averaging 26.2 minutes per game. It seems like the Lakers are interested in retaining Hachimura, who could become a restricted free agent this summer.
O’Neal may have been a bit disrespectful when the team first traded for Hachimura, but the Lakers forward is earning the Hall of Famer’s respect with his play on the floor.