Boston Celtics: 5 Reasons Shaq's Return Won't End Celts' Recent Struggles

Collin BerglundCorrespondent IIIApril 1, 2011

Boston Celtics: 5 Reasons Shaq's Return Won't End Celts' Recent Struggles

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 19:  Shaquille O'Neal of the Boston Celtics attends NBA All-Star Saturday night presented by State Farm at Staples Center on February 19, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Noel Vasquez/Getty Images)
    Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

    The Boston Celtics have lost three of their last four games. But many fans believe all will be well when Shaquille O'Neal returns to the lineup.  

    The Celtics expect Shaq to return on Tuesday against the Philadelphia 76ers, but contrary to popular opinion, he won't immediately turn the Celtics around.  

    Larger issues have prevented the Celtics from being the force they were earlier in the season. The Celtics have already dropped to the second seed in the East. And while it is unlikely they drop more than one more spot, they won't be the dominant force fans saw earlier in the season with or without Shaq.

    Here's why.

5. Rajon Rondo's Morale

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    BOSTON, MA - MARCH 23:  Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics and Leon Powe #7 of the Memphis Grizzlies fight for the ball on March 23, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  The Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Boston Celtics 90-87. NOTE TO USER:
    Elsa/Getty Images

    The biggest reason for the Celtics struggles post-Perkins isn't the lack of the beloved big man—Perkins barely played at all this season anyway.  

    It's the change that has overtaken Rajon Rondo. After 10 points and five assists last Friday against Charlotte, Rondo sat the next game due to "injury." Rondo and Perkins were best friends and Rondo's aggressiveness has diminished since Perkins left.

    Before Monday's loss to Indiana, Rondo averaged less than six points on 30 percent shooting in his previous eight games. In order for the Celtics to compete for a title, they need a happy, healthy Rajon Rondo.

    Shaq's return will do little to replace Perkins as Rondo's pal.

4. Shaq Is Old

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    BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 07:  Shaquille O'Neal #36 of the Boston Celtics heads for the basket as Andrea Bargnani #7 of the Toronto Raptors defends on January 7, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agre
    Elsa/Getty Images

    The Celtics were a very good team with Shaq starting at center earlier this season, but he was not a dominant player. And now, the team isn't the same one Shaq played with earlier in the year.

    To expect similar results is unreasonable. He's in a situation where Krstic will likely further reduce his already meager (about 20 per game) minutes. With those minutes, he brought down less than five rebounds per game.

    He was a efficient scorer in his time on the floor scoring nearly 10 PPG on better than 66 percent shooting, but many of his shots came off Rondo passes. (And as we've argued, with an unhappy Rondo, it is unclear how efficiently Shaq would be able to score on his own.)

3. Can Shaq Stay Healthy?

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 19:  Shaquille O'Neal of the Boston Celtics waves as he attends NBA All-Star Saturday night presented by State Farm at Staples Center on February 19, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    When aging big men get hurt it can have an enormous impact on the rest of their careers. Think Bill Walton, Manute Bol and Greg Oden (at least he looked like he was aging).  

    There is no guarantee that when Shaq comes back, he will be able to stay on the floor.  If he gets hurt again, the Celtics are right back where they started and stand little chance of improving upon their less-than-impressive recent record.

2. Nenad Krstic

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    BOSTON, MA - MARCH 16:  Nenad Krstic #4 of the Boston Celtics is congratulated by teammate Kevin Garnett #5 after Krstic drew the foul in the second half against the Indiana Pacers on March 16, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics d
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Believe it or not, Nenad Krstic has been one of the most unexpected good players on the Celtics during their run. His success, and Glen Davis' ability to compete with guys much taller, has kept back-up big man Troy Murphy relegated to the bench.

    Krstic is averaging 10 points and six rebounds per game. Shaq is not significantly better than Krstic in their respective careers and Krstic fits Boston's up-tempo style better than Shaq does—who could be seen laboring up the court before his injury.

1. Big Four

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    BOSTON - JUNE 17:  (L-R) Rajon Rondo #9, Kevin Garnett #5 and Ray Allen #20 listen to teammate Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics in the third quarter of Game Six of the 2008 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers on June 17, 2008 at TD Banknorth Ga
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    The Celtics are a team that feeds off of its star power. Winning a game depends primarily on the success of Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.  

    It doesn't matter who is playing center if those players are all on their games. All four of them know how to win—with the exception of Rondo, they're aging, and fast. This makes it difficult for them to do the things they were once able to.

    Shaq's return will have little impact on the Celtics success for the rest of the season. If Rondo and the Big Three take their games to the next level, they will get better. If these players don't improve, the season might as well be over.