The Boston Celtics agreed to terms with Shaq yesterday, bringing on the 15-time All-Star, “enforcer”, and future Hall of Famer. They also, indirectly, agreed to take on all of the drama that comes with the self-styled Most Dominant Ever.
On a loaded Celtics team, it is widely believed that O’Neal will be asked to come off the bench, something he has never done over the span of his 18-year career.
Is he willing to push his ego and unquenchable thirst for myth-building aside for the good of the franchise, as they chase yet another ring? NBA.com takes a look:
The Celtics, the source said, have told O’Neal that he has to come off the bench next season, and that O’Neal said he could accept a reserve role for the first time in his career. The three-time Finals MVP has not had many suitors this summer that had either the playing time or money to offer him, and O’Neal is running out of places that can give him a chance to compete for a championship as his career draws to a close.
Boston was leery of signing O’Neal because if he became unhappy with his role, that unhappiness could pervade the entire team, as the Celtics believe happened with O’Neal in some of his previous stops in recent seasons. O’Neal started in his one season last year with the Cavaliers, including after his return from a right thumb injury that kept him out of the final five weeks of the regular season.
Sources have indicated that Cleveland Coach Mike Brown’s decision to play O’Neal ahead of forward J.J. Hickson and veteran big man Zydrunas Ilgauskas caused friction within the Cavaliers’ locker room.
With Kendrick Perkins out of action (and Rasheed Wallace retiring), O’Neal might not have to worry about the lack of minutes for a while. Eventually, this may become an issue, something everyone in Boston should be keenly aware of.
Shaq accepted the least lucrative deal of his storied career to join the Celtics; fans of the team can only hope he’ll noiselessly accept to play the smallest role to date as well.