Shaquille O’Neal sat on the free agent market for what seemed like forever. It seemed as though every single team was rumored to want his services at some point until he finally ended up wearing Celtic green.
As an Atlanta Hawks fan, I was ecstatic when I heard the news that he had signed with Boston, especially because there was a time when I thought the Big Diesel might actually be headed to Atlanta.
I worried that the aging center might bring his big frame to the Hawks and poison the minds of young stars Al Horford and Josh Smith with his slow play.
I worried that he may turn the team against the new first-time head coach, Larry Drew.
Now, neither of those problems will exist in Boston, but others will.
The Celtics have a veteran core and a young superstar in Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo. They also have an established coach in Doc Rivers who will have no trouble dealing with the clubhouse cancer that Shaquille O’Neal may be.
But what does Shaq actually add to this team? Not much.
He is another big body who can play some defense and score occasionally. However, he can’t be on the court for any sort of extended period because he’s not in good enough shape.
Shaq can’t dominate like he used to throughout a game. And even worse, when Kendrick Perkins inevitably gets into foul trouble, Shaq will have to enter the game toward the conclusion of the contest.
Teams will simply employ the Hack-a-Shaq strategy again and the Big Aristotle may actually manage to single-handedly lose the Boston Celtics some games with his bricks from the charity stripe.
Also, it is a virtual certainty that the Celtics will advance to the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. As they proved last year, the regular season is almost meaningless for this veteran team.
When they made the postseason, the team turned on their motors and ran on fumes all the way to the NBA Finals. Part of the reason for the success was the inspired play of Rasheed Wallace.
The now-retired all-time leader in technical fouls had a pathetic regular season. He contributed in a negative way much more often than he did in a positive manner. Wallace even managed to score on the wrong basket at one point during the season.
But because he still had gas left in the tank when the playoffs rolled around, he was able to play well and help lift the Celtics further into the postseason than almost anyone thought possible.
Now what are the chances that Shaq can do the same?
It’s hard to lug his big body around for an 82-game season, much less follow that up with a stellar postseason.
Unfortunately for the Celtics, this is the reality they must now confront. Because of Wallace’s retirement and the signing of Shaq, the Celtics have doomed themselves to rostering an even older, more worn out player.
The team is still quite good, with three sure-fire Hall of Famers and a young point guard that could eventually be enshrined. But this roster move didn’t help their cause any this season.
One thing is for sure, the big center will help sell tickets and merchandise. And maybe Shaq can at least teach Rondo how to shoot free throws.