Just a month after coming up 4 points short of what would have been one of the most phenomenal championship runs in their storied history, the Boston Celtics are in the middle of an interesting off season that has been a mixed bag thus far.
Non-factors in the race for the big name free agents, the C’s took care of business by resigning Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to team-friendly deals. They added Jermaine O’Neal to replace the (presumably) retiring Rasheed Wallace. Joining O’Neal on the bench are returning Celtic free agents Nate Robinson and Marquis Daniels.
The loss of Tony Allen and a string of lost wing FA’s (Matt Barnes, Rasual Butler, Ronnie Brewer) has marred the Celtics bid to return to the NBA Finals a bit.
With little money left and fewer options available, a new name has surfaced as a possible addition to the Celtic Nation. Four-time NBA champion and first ballot hall of fame lock Shaquille O'Neal is available and according to recent reports, lobbying hard to become a Celtic.
Bringing in the 38 year old O’Neal would be difficult to pull off. He would have to accept the veteran’s minimum or come over in a sign and trade most likely involving Wallace’s expiring contract.
Coming off what can only be described as a huge disappointment in Cleveland last year, Shaquille showed his age, especially in a playoff series where the C’s blasted his heavily favored Cavs. The reasons against the signing of Shaq are numerous, but here are six reasons why the C’s absolutely must roll the dice and find some way to turn the Big Diesel into the Big Leprechaun.
Any Celtic fan can easily recall the horror of watching Kendrick Perkins fumbling away a great entry pass from Rajon Rondo. For all his bulk and defensive skills, Perkins lacks the hand and hops to finish the great plays Rondo starts. He either drops the ball, pump fakes until he is whistled for traveling or has to dribble the ball before taking it up allowing duped defenders to recover.
With Shaq on the receiving end, Rondo’s game will elevate. (Ditto for Pierce, Robinson and Garnett). Great drives, pick and rolls and slick passes will be rewarded by a big man with incredibly soft hands. We have all seen what Rondo can do with KG via the alley-oop. Imagine the sight of Rajon coming off a Garnett pick, blowing by a defender and throwing the ball up to the rim for a guy who can actually go up and slam it down.
The Celtics lack of rebounding was painfully on display during their game seven loss to the Los Angles Lakers. In two short years, the C’s have fallen from an elite rebounding team, to one of the worst in the league, especially on the offensive glass. The second unit was particularly bereft of glass cleaners. Shaq, pulled down 6.7 rebounds per game while playing just under 24 minutes. Compare that to Rasheed Wallace’s dismal 4.1 boards per game in similar paying time and it is easy to see how Shaq would be an upgrade on the glass.
His presence will allow other Celtics like Peirce, Allen, Rajon Rondo and Glen Davis to get out and run. On the offensive side of the ball, his ability to clean up misses will provide the Celtics easy second half points.
Even in limited minutes, Shaq managed to put down a dozen points a game while hitting nearly 57% of his shots.
His limitations on the offensive end (Woeful free show shooting, slow feet) are negated by his ability to get easy baskets on put backs and the way he will fit into the Boston system. He would join a second unit in Boston that would greatly benefit from his low post presence and he will not slow down a team hell bent on running as he did in Cleveland. Playing with Boston’s first or second units, Shaq’s strong low post game and legendary passing ability will be an important weapon for the C’s.
Though D has not been Shaq’s strength in recent years, it would be interesting to see what Garnett could do to turn the Big Diesel into the Big D. Teammates have long credited KG with ramping up defensive intensity and his presence has turned the Celtics into a perennial defensive force.
If KG could light a fire under Shaq, he could be the huge body the Celts need to back up Perkins and a newly revamped Shaq would make quite a defensive tandem partner with both Garnett on the first unit and O’Neal on the second.
With Jermaine already in house, adding Shaq would give the Celtics yet another cleverly named player combo. Joining the Big Three (Soon to be Rajon Rondo and the Big Three) and Shrek and Donkey, a side by side O’Neal towers could sell a few thousand T shirts.
Perhaps the biggest intangible Shaq could bring to the Celtics is his attitude. He was brought to Cleveland to help LeBron win a title and that fell apart. With King James departing in a huff, much of the onus has been placed at Shaq’s feet.
Every veteran ring seeker in the league has been headed to Miami, but clearly there is no invite for Shaq to the King’s new party. It would seem that Shaq is not welcome in South Beach. His feud with Kobe is legendary and with his ring collection now lagging behind Bryant’s, Shaq just might have something to prove to ex-teammates like Kobe, Wade and LeBron.
A hungry, angry Shaq with his legacy on the line just might be what the Celtics need to make a serious run at an 18th title.