Shaquille O'Neal knows what it's like to go through ups and downs with young teammates, so he's in a unique position to help Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving navigate a difficult 2018-19 season alongside talented but inexperienced teammates.
Being the face of a franchise and the guy who's supposed to make the team fit together is not easy. O'Neal was this player with the Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers for the first 12 seasons of his career. He clashed with young stars including Anfernee Hardaway and Kobe Bryant, but also found a way to battle through the adversity and enjoy a ton of success.
Before Boston earned an impressive 33-point road win over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night, O'Neal weighed in on Irving's situation with the Celtics, and offered some sage advice for the 26-year-old superstar.
“As a superstar, the best decision I ever made in my life was when I decided let my young dogs play,” O’Neal said on TNT's pregame show. “When I first came in, it was all about me. I wanted to do it by myself. There was a kid named Penny Hardaway (with the Orlando Magic). I let him play. We both went to work. Then when I got to (the Los Angeles Lakers), I left Orlando and I wanted to do the same thing … as soon as I said, ‘You know what? Kobe (Bryant), play with me,’ best decision I made. Kyrie has to let those guys play. They wanna play, use them.”
Irving did a great job getting his teammates going Tuesday night. He dished out a team-high 11 assists and often took a backseat offensively to rising stars Jayson Tatum (17 points) and Jaylen Brown (18 points).
There will be times when Irving will (and should) take over games and look for his scoring before getting teammates involved. He's among the most clutch players in the league and can create his own shot in any type of scenario.
But he can't lead the Celtics to a championship by himself -- Tatum, Brown, Terry Rozier and the other young C's need to play an important role in that success. If Irving is able to find the balance between his own scoring and helping his young teammates also be a focal point of the team, Boston is going to be a very tough out come playoff time.
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