Is it going to work? Maybe. Maybe not.
But it’s going to happen — Shaquille O’Neal has agreed to join the Boston Celtics according to CSN New England, ESPN’s Chris Brossard and a bunch of other sources now. This will be a one-year deal for the league minimum of $1.4 million.
Is it a good signing? Time will tell, but there are risks. Risks in terms of injuries, risks in terms of locker room chemistry, risks in terms of reputation. But risks both sides needed to take.
Shaq 2010 is not Shaq 2000. He cannot single handedly lead a team to a title (Kobe Bryant would like to point out that he couldn’t do that in 2000 either). His game is in decline, something evident the past few seasons, particularly in Cleveland last year. As Zach Lowe at Celtics Hub points out, the Cavaliers actually did better with him off the court than on it last season.
But Shaq and Jermaine O’Neal (who will start at center for Boston, at least until Kendrick Perkins returns) bring a new dimension to the Celtics — scoring from the five spot. It’s a reason Doc Rivers led the effort to get Shaq in green. Perkins was out there to defend and rebound, the other four guys on the floor had to provide the offense. Which worked very well in 2008. But last year the Celtics offense became heavily dependant on Rajon Rondo penetration to get points inside. Shaq, for all his flaws, is still able to score from the block.
Shaq is going to be a help through the All-Star break, although as Lowe points out who he plays with in the frontcourt off the bench will be interesting. Shaq and Big Baby Glen Davis may be the most obvious but it is an odd pairing. Remember, Davis was nicknamed “baby Shaq” at LSU (the college the two shared) because of a somewhat similar game. And look.
Davis and Shaq bring a lot of the same things to the floor, it’s hard to see them as a natural pairing. Kevin Garnett would be, but he will play more starters minutes and lineups.
How Shaq fits in on defense is another question. His defensive rotations are not great, and he can be exposed if forced to cover the high pick-and-roll. Boston has made its name on defense.
All that said, both sides really need each other. It’s a risk, but a risk worth taking.
Boston needed depth up front and some scoring from the five spot. Shaq may be able to give them that. Shaq needs to win again; he wants a chance at a ring for the thumb. Boston can give him that. Both are older, both need to stay healthy — or at least be healthy come playoff time — to have a chance.
If everything breaks right, it’s a gamble that could pay off. Could. But both sides needed to take the risk.