As a huge fan of Shaquille O'Neal, let me welcome the "Big Shamrock" to Boston. Ever since I started watching basketball, I have always loved watching the Diesel muscle his way through defenders and work the camera like no one in the history of the NBA. With that said, many people are a little skeptical of the signing because, let's face it, Shaq is 38 years old, clearly out of shape, and not nearly the player he once was. I look at the signing a bit differently...
We all watched the NBA Finals and saw the Celtics get owned on the boards and just could not match up to the oversized team that was the Lakers. When Kendrick Perkins went down with a torn ACL and MCL in Game 6, all of Celtic Nation held their breath because we knew that we just lost one of the best defensive centers in the league at a time when we needed him most.
Even without Perk, the Celtics were just a few minutes away from an 18th NBA Championship, but then that glaring hole at center really started to show. The likes of Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Kobe Bryant, and Andrew Bynum started getting all the rebounds that the Celtics could not get. Boston was just worn out and could not keep up with the Lakers who were able to keep their players fresh.
After the crushing loss, the Celtics knew they needed to get bigger. They addressed this need by going out and signing six time NBA All-Star Jermaine O'Neal and then grabbed headlines by bringing in Shaq.
How Will Shaq Help the Celtics?
With Perkins out until at least February at best, and possibly the whole season, the Celtics have added some size to the reining Eastern Conference Champions. Shaq will split time with Jermaine O'Neal, Glen Davis, Kevin Garnett, Luke Harangody, and Semih Erden. While this is not all quality, the Celtics system has shown that, as long as players hustle, they can be successful. The Celtics did lose Rasheed Wallace to retirement, but there are rumors he may return midseason to the team, a la P.J. Brown.
Last season with the Cavs, Shaq averaged 12 points and seven rebounds per game. While he did miss 29 games last year, he was still reliable in the playoffs, as he averaged almost 14 points per game in the Cavs second round loss to the Celtics. Doc Rivers showed last year with the Big Three that the regular season does not matter and that managing players' minutes is the most important thing. If Rivers uses the same strategy he used last year with his older players, the Shaq signing will be more valuable than we may realize.
After listening to a recent interview with Rivers on a Boston sports radio station, he hinted that Shaq will play somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 games and about 20 minutes per game this year. If he sticks to that, Shaq should be able to contribute double-digit points and close to double-digit rebounds.
The hope is to keep him fresh for the playoffs, where he will be able to play as many minutes as possible and give the Celtics the same spark and energy they used to shock the NBA last year, as they made a very unexpected trip to the Finals and took the Lakers down to the last minute of Game 7.
As a Celtics fan, I love this signing because it is low risk, high reward. The Celtics signed Shaq to a two-year, $2.7 million contract. This could be the most high profile signing for such a low cost. Shaq will add leadership, depth, and character to one of the best teams in the East. Rivers showed how good he was at managing the team last year, and I'm looking forward to seeing how he does this year as the Big Three are a year older, and Rajon Rondo is a year better.
I'm interested in hearing everyone else's thoughts on the topic. Feel free to comment and throw in your two cents.