I write about sports in Boston. Good stories are my currency. And I just got a little richer. Shaquille O'Neal is coming to the Celtics.
What a town. What a team.
It just never stops here in Boston. We had Manny Ramirez and Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling and the Bloody Sock. We have Tom Brady and Coach Hoodie and we had Spygate and the 18-0 season. Every Red Sox game is a sellout. Every Patriot game is a sellout. We've had more parades than Macy's.
And now Shaquille O'Neal is joining the Celtics. This is going to be great.
Nationally, a few folks are scratching their heads. Shaq is old, much-traveled, and failed to inspire anybody in recent stays in Phoenix and Cleveland. He is no longer a dominant force. He's not going to be able to play a lot of minutes. And he still can't make free throws.
But there is absolutely no downside to this move by Danny Ainge.
The Celtics didn't give up anyone to get Shaq, they're paying him the veterans' minimum and they don't need him to play 35 minutes a night.
Experts like Bob Ryan (smart fellow, he should try to get on television once in a while) are concerned about Shaq's pick-and-roll defense, which is not good. NBA teams these days pick-and-roll you to death and one of the Celtics' strengths has been a rotating "help" defense which smothers the pick-and-roll when the old guys are able to move their feet. Shaq isn't good at this. But he's not going to be on the floor long enough to hurt the "help" defense.
The Celtics have been in need of big man help since Kendrick Perkins blew out his knee in Game 6 of the NBA Finals at Staples Center. The C's were forced to start Rasheed Wallace at center in Game 7, and he got manhandled under the basket by the Lakers. They couldn't keep the Lakers from getting second and third shots. It cost them a championship.
Perkins (a strong defender of the pick and roll) had surgery after the Finals and probably won't be much help until the All-Star break of the 2010-2011 season. In an effort to address the problem, Ainge signed Jermaine O'Neal and now Shaq.
Bringing in a couple of O'Neals pretty much guarantees that the Celtics will have the oldest team in the history of basketball. Think about it: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Shaquille O'Neal, Jermaine O'Neal and maybe Rasheed Wallace. Those six players have logged an aggregate 86 seasons in the NBA. In the Boston Garden in 2010-11 every day will be Old Timer's Day. The Celts will be sponsored by Geritol and Grecian Formula.
All this veteran presence should bring out the best in Shaq. The danger of disruption is minimized by the presence of leaders like Garnett, Pierce and Allen. The Diesel respects those guys and it unlikely to play the Diva. He didn't seem to have any problem subjugating his ego in the presence of egomaniac LeBron James. Now he's joining a team with star players who've actually won something.
Shaq's floor game is not what it was, but he's still gigantic and he can still drop 20 points on your head if he gets enough touches. Shaq is the last of the classic big men who played with their backs to the basket.
He can set picks. He can rebound. He can help the Celtics plug the gap (along with Jermaine) until Perkins is ready to return.
We expect him to bring a positive attitude. It's clear he's not doing this for the money, which means he must be doing it for the ring.
That's a good thing if you are a Celtics fan.
Shaq isn't the first aging veteran to finish out his days on the parquet floor. Artis Gilmore, Pete Maravich and Dominique Wilkins came to Boston for some finals bows. Bill Walton joined the Celtics in 1985-86 and was part of the greatest frontcourt in basketball history when he teamed with Robert Parish, Kevin McHale, Larry Bird and Scott Wedman.
Walton got a ring out of it and will always consider himself a Celtic.
Shaq already has ties to Boston. He's the one who named Paul Pierce "The Truth.'' He appeared in Blue Chips alongside Bob Cousy. And he has a chance to join Clyde Lovellette in a very small club of players who won championships as Celtics and Lakers (Bill Sharman has rings from both, but did not play for the Lakers).
The Celtics have scheduled an introductory press conference for Shaq this week. It should be a doozy. Being a Boston sports fan just got a lot better. And working in the Boston sports media just became a little more fun.
I love this game.