Shaq provides boost to Celtics
BOSTON -- For the last 36 hours, the local airwaves have been buzzing over the news that
For the most part, opinions have been mixed about the two-year deal worth nearly $3 million. Some view O'Neal as the ideal candidate to bridge the gap between the start of the regular season and the All-Star break, when center
Multiple NBA officials, however, hold the same opinion about the deal: No, no,
The arguments have merit. Defense is the biggest concern. O'Neal is still a solid low-post defender who won't need much help when the premier Eastern Conference big men (
Offensively, Rondo will face challenges. In Phoenix, O'Neal was routinely criticized for stifling the Suns' offense by creating another barrier to the basket for
O'Neal's attitude is a big question, too. Joining the Celtics wasn't his best option; it was his only one. Sources said the Hawks, leery of O'Neal's influence in a locker room filled with twentysomethings, were never close to making a firm offer. Nor were the Spurs, Heat and Clippers, three teams O'Neal's camp actively courted over the last few weeks.
The reason: Few believe O'Neal is actually willing to accept a reserve role. Sources familiar with O'Neal's former teams said that if O'Neal isn't happy with his role he will divide the locker room, pulling easily influenced players into his clique. Unselfishness has been a critical part of Boston's recent success -- how many times have we heard the word "ubuntu" in the last three years? -- and any internal strife caused by O'Neal could damage team chemistry.
Still, there are reasons to believe signing O'Neal could work out. He instantly becomes one of the Celtics' best rebounders (he averaged 6.7 in only 23.4 minutes last season), a space-clearing monster who should help Boston -- the NBA's second-worst rebounding team last season -- control the defensive glass.
Offensively, O'Neal is still a viable option in the post. Gone are the days where he can put up 25 points regularly. But O'Neal is an economical scorer (12.0 points on 56.6 percent shooting last season) who, before injuring his thumb in late February, had averaged 15.9 points over a 14-game span. And while his hulking presence won't help Rondo, his size underneath should help clean up many of the point guard's mistakes.
Most important, Boston needs Shaq. There are no guarantees Perkins will be anything more than a shell of his former self when he returns, and Garnett and newly signed
Figuring out how to work O'Neal into the defense won't be easy (that's new assistant coach