Going into the Off-Season, the Boston Celtics management knew they had to accomplish many things.
-Resign Paul Pierce and Ray Allen
-Find a temporary replacement for C Kendrick Perkins
-Maintain role players while adding pieces
-Solve last years greatest issue: Rebounding. Offensive...Defensive...Rebounding.
These necessities became more and more apparent as three fifths of a starting All-Star Team formed in Miami. #1 got checked off the list after some waiting but was no surprise when it finally happened. The C's needed some extra pieces to their team as the competition will like prove to be much greater this time around, and the C's are a year older. Last season, the Celtics proved that age did not factor much into their playoff scenario, and now they will have to do it again.
Rebounding damaged the Celtics throughout the playoffs and was no more evident than against the Lakers going up against Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Lamar Odom. Once Kendrick Perkins went down in the first half of game 6, the C's already struggling rebounding, lost its greatest rebounder. The Celtics rebounding leaders on the year were Perkins(7.6/gm) and Kevin Garnett(7.3/gm). The third highest rebounder was 6-1 Rajon Rondo(tied with Paul Pierce with 4.4). The top three rebounders on the Lakers(Gasol, Odom, Bynum) had averages of 11.3, 9.8, and 8.3, respectively. A stat like this is unbelievably difficult to overcome, and the C's almost did it. Perkins going down came with worse news as a January return was the likeliest of results.
Insert Jermaine O'Neal.
Jermaine O'Neal's acquisition gave the C's a replacement for Perkins, 2009 stats: 6.9 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game, and offense. O'Neal put in 13.6 pts/gm on 52.9% shooting. He has the ability to shoot the turnaround and hook in the post and has solid range on the corners.
At age 32, analysts were skeptical of what an injury prone(6 seasons with less than 70 games played) O'Neal could bring to the table. O'Neal also is not near the level of physical defensive dominance that Kendrick Perkins presents. Glen Davis would have wound up being Jermaine's backup until Perkins returned and would have likely logged extra minutes with O'Neal likely needing more rest than Perk did.
Insert “Shaq,” “The Big Diesel,” “The Big Aristotle,” “Shaq Fu,” “The Big Shactus,” “The Big Shamrock??” (Shaq is still accepting suggestions for his new C's nick.)
With Shaq, Jermaine, Kevin Garnett, and Glen Davis, the C's now have four formidable rebounder's. At age 37 last season, Shaq was still able to average 12 points, 6.7 boards and 1.2 blocks while only averaging 23.4 minutes. His large defensive presence will be very important against physical players like Dwight Howard and the C's now have the ability to jam the lane against the Heat or match-up with multiple big men like the Lakers have.
Having the two O'Neal's allows them to not have to absorb as many minutes as if the Celtics had only one of them and it also enables several different playing styles for the C's. Coach Doc Rivers will be able to practice his substitution skills throughout the season, using Jermaine against faster, more offensive prone teams and Shaq against tougher, half-court offense-type defensive squads. Similarly during series and scenarios, quicker substitutions will likely be made during individual offensive/defensive possessions, allowing the C's to utilize each player's strong points.
Kendrick Perkins will eventually make his return. Some might see this as a mess, but for a good coach this is the perfect opportunity to piece together fierce layers of talent and skill that will likely make the Celtics one of the most difficult and gritty low post teams in the league. No, the Celtics are not getting any younger, but with all this talent spread around, does it really matter?