Question of the day: Could Shaquille O’Neal make a difference for the Boston Celtics?
[Updated at 1:15 p.m.:
Lisa Dillman, Los Angeles Times
Ah, even the most carefully-crafted plan can veer wildly off course.
After dinner last night, we were talking about Shaquille O’Neal and his expected deal with the Celtics. My friend and former Laker beat writer Tim Kawakami said O’Neal once told him that he planned on retiring when he was 30.
Well … that went well.
At 38, the former Laker, Shaq, is poised to join the team most-hated by Laker fans. Bring on the Jolly Green Giant.
(Just think how painful this information might be had the Lakers LOST Game 7 to the Celtics.)
Either way, it does raise two questions: How much does Shaq have left to help the Celtics? Should this impact any future plans to retire his jersey with the Lakers when he does, eventually, retire from the game?
The second question, first.
No, this has nothing to do with what Shaq did in Los Angeles. He can change teams, change his name and his nicknames, and even change his number but it does nothing to detract from his impressive Laker resume. No need to purge his name and his three straight championships from the Laker media guide.
The other issue is more difficult. Frankly, the concept of Shaq always sounds better than the injury-riddled reality. It is a given he will get hurt and would be stunning if he played well over 50-plus games. Despite that, Boston is the best fit, by far, for O’Neal, much better than, say. Atlanta. Boston needs big men in a major way until Kendrick Perkins returns from knee surgery. And the strong personalities in the Celtic room can also temper and get the best and what is left from Shaq’s larger-than-life persona.
Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun Sentinel
Sure, at least during the period that Kendrick Perkins requires to recover from his offseason knee surgery, an absence that could linger into February.
Shaq remains an imposing presence and certainly had his moments last season with the Cavaliers.
But for the Celtics, it's not about the regular season. It certainly wasn't last season, when, after meandering through the first 82 games, they mounted a charge all the way to the NBA Finals.
So the greater issue becomes: What happens when Perkins and Jermaine O'Neal stand ahead of him in the rotation? An unhappy O'Neal is a very large problem to contend with.
Just ask Jerry Buss. Or Stan Van Gundy. Or Pat Riley. Or Terry Porter.
The perfect solution: Play him the first half of the season, then, when Perkins returns, move Shaq at the trading deadline, to his fourth team in three seasons. He has been reduced to, at this stage, The Big Journeyman.]
Dom Amore, Hartford Courant
There were those, probably, who chuckled or rolled their eyes when the Celtics picked up Bill Walton for a magical mystery tour in the mid-'80s. Walton was a once-great center, no longer a star, no longer able to stand up to the rigors of full-time play -- just what did Red Auerbach think he was doing when he signed "Big Red." You know the rest. Walton knew how to win and knew how to tailor his remaining skills to the needs of a team that was already solid, and chemistry paid off in a championship.
So today, it is asked, could Shaq O'Neal help the Celtics? The short answer: Of course.
Now, we know that O'Neal, 38, is the oldest player in the NBA and five years older than Walton was when the Celtics got him. And Shaq just "fitting in" is hard to ponder. It didn't work out, curiously, in Cleveland, where the Cavs were better when O'Neal wasn't on the floor. But the Celtics are a veteran team, one that knows how to play as a unit and will likely figure out how to make the most of O'Neal's skills while masking his vulnerabilities.
The Celtics’ window for winning more championships with their current core is just about shut; perhaps there is one more available before the Heat coalesce. Keeping the risk manageable, they should take a shot with Shaq.
[Updated at 3:03 p.m.
Josh Robbins, Orlando Sentinel
Go ahead and be skeptical about the Boston Celtics’ acquisition of Shaquille O’Neal.
The Big Shamrock will prove you wrong.
Shaq isn’t the player he was three, five or 10 years ago. We all know that.
But in a league with few quality centers, he’s still good enough to give opponents headaches for 20 minutes a night in a playoff series.
And with Kendrick Perkins recovering from knee surgery and Rasheed Wallace seemingly intent on retiring, Shaq will give the Celtics some much-needed depth at center.
O’Neal’s presence could create a problem on an inexperienced team, but not a group led by veterans (and fellow graybeards) Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. The Big Three has seen it all in their NBA tenures, and they can handle the Shaq circus.
So can Doc Rivers.
Boston’s coach did a masterful job last season of making sure that his older players were fresh once the playoffs arrived, and the Celtics reaped the dividends.]
Photo: Shaquille O'Neal, while playing with the Cleveland Cavaliers, tries to dribble around Celtics' Kendrick Perkins in May. Credit: Jay Laprette / EPA