West: Shaq Is ‘Phenomenal’


Executive Vice President Jerry West, who in training camp predicted that this would be a most-valuable-player season for Shaquille O’Neal, said that O’Neal’s recent blistering run might be exceeding even his own expectations.

“He’s just been phenomenal,” West said this week of the Laker center, pointing out that O’Neal led the team to a 11-4 record while Kobe Bryant was sidelined. “I think the one thing playing a different style of ball--and it is a different style--has put him in positions where maybe he can show a little more of what he can do.”

In Coach Phil Jackson’s triangle offense, O’Neal has been more mobile on the post, using better angles and a more organized approach to scoring.


“In this offense, there’s no screening, it’s really body and ball movement,” West said. “It puts him in a position where he’s not completely under the basket, he’s further out on the floor, and he’s able to do more things.”

In an 11-game streak leading into Friday’s game against Portland, O’Neal averaged 32 points, 15.5 rebounds and 3.9 blocked shots.

“I think it’s almost a maturity thing,” West said. “He’s at the age for a player when careers really skyrocket, from 27 to 32, I’ve always felt were the best years for a player.

“I look at him at 27 years old, and if he’s not MVP of this league so far, I don’t think the award means much.”


Guard Derek Fisher said he understands that once Bryant is ready to go back into the starting lineup, Jackson will find many times where he starts Bryant and Ron Harper and has Fisher come off the bench.

“I understand it and accept it, if it does happen,” Fisher said. “I don’t think it will be an every-game thing, but I know there will be certain situations, maybe we’re matching up against a team like a Phoenix or Seattle, where they have bigger guards in the backcourt . . .


“It allows us to do some different things, so I understand that.”