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What Shaq brings to the Celtics

08.04.10 at 7:43 pm ET
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Now that Shaquille O’Neal has come to terms with the Celtics on a two-year contract for the veteran minimum, we can address what it means on the court.

O’Neal is 38 years old and will be 39 in March. It’s impossible to write about Shaq without mentioning his age (or his conditioning) because he’s not the same player who destroyed the NBA earlier this decade and he hasn’t been for several years.

Since his first season with the Heat, 2004-05, Shaq has gone over the 2,000-minute mark just once. That was in 2008-09 when he shot almost 61 percent and was named to the All-NBA third team with Phoenix.

The Suns were so enthralled with his work that they traded him for to the Cavs for Sasha Pavlovic, Ben Wallace and a second-round pick. They promptly released both players, making the return for Shaq a strict salary dump. The Cavs are letting him leave for nothing.

That doesn’t mean he’s not effective. In 53 games with Cleveland, Shaq averaged 12 points and 6.7 rebounds in about 24 minutes of action a game and remained a productive low-post scorer and rebounder, especially on the defensive glass. He was not, however, the difference-maker for the Cavs against the Magic and Dwight Howard as advertised last summer.

The good news for the Celtics is that they don’t need him to be one. They don’t need 20 and 10 every night, and he’s not the center complement for a young perimeter superstar. as with Penny Hardaway, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James elsewhere in his career. What they need is for him to team with Jermaine O’Neal to hold down the middle until Kendrick Perkins returns from knee surgery, which may be as late as the All-Star break.

After that? Who knows. That’s something for Doc Rivers to figure out in February.

For now, the Celtics have fortified their front line and credit Danny Ainge with doing it deliberately and without panic. The Celtics could have had Shaq as far back as early July if they were willing to give him their mid-level exception. They didn’t, using that money to sign the younger O’Neal. They could have had him back in mid-July if they could have worked out a sign-and-trade, but they didn’t go for that either.

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Shaq signs with the Celtics

08.04.10 at 4:46 pm ET
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The Celtics announced on their team website that they have come to terms with Shaquille O’Neal.

“It is not every day that you can add a player of Shaquille’s caliber to your team,” Danny Ainge said in the release. “His past experience speaks for itself and we believe that he is a great fit for our roster.”

And here’s the Shaq quote:

“I am honored to be joining the Celtics. I have played against Paul, Ray, Kevin, Rajon, and Jermaine for many years and it will be great to be able to call them my teammates. I cannot wait to get to Boston to get started in pursuit of another championship.”

According to the report O’Neal will wear No. 36.

Read More: NBA Rumor Mill 2010, Shaquille O'Neal,

Mannix on D&C: ‘Not a unanimous decison’ for C’s on Shaq

08.04.10 at 10:09 am ET
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Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix joined the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning to discuss the Celtics‘ impending signing of Shaquille O’Neal. To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Mannix said it’s a one-year deal for the veteran minimum ‘€” approximately $1.4 million ‘€” with a second-year player option. “This was not an easy decision for either side,” Mannix said, adding, “Shaq is obviously taking a monster pay cut. … It’s a huge, huge pay cut for this guy to play for this team and to accept a reserve role, coming off the bench.

“And for the Celtics, I can tell you this much, it was not a unanimous decision. This is not something that the entire front office and coaching staff entirely agreed upon. But it is a Danny Ainge type of move. He’s taken risks like this in the past, whether it’s Gary Payton or Stephon Marbury or Nate Robinson this past year. He’s taken chances on guys he thinks can help put them over the top. Danny obviously is convinced that Shaq is what this team needs right now.”

Asked if it was Shaq’s off-court distractions or on-court issues that made the Celtics hesitate, Mannix said: “It’s a little bit of a blend of both, but I think you’d have to start with the on-the-court problems. He is the worst pick-and-roll defender of all-time. He really is. He’s just a horrible, horrible guy when you’re coming off blitzing those screens. And Kendrick Perkins was one of the better pick-and-roll defenders on this Celtics team. This whole defense that Tom Thibodeau put together, and Kevin Garnett glued together, was based on effective pick-and-roll defense.

“It’s going to be incumbent now on Doc Rivers, and to a certain degree Lawrence Frank, who is essentially taking over that Tom Thibodeau role, to redesign the defense. They’re going to have to come up with something almost entirely new when Shaq’s on the floor. Because think about it: The two teams standing in Boston’s path are really Orlando and Miami, and those teams are going to run pick and roll all day long.”

Mannix also noted how Shaq often was in the way of Steve Nash when they were teammates in Phoenix. “Rajon Rondo is going to have similar problems,” Mannix said. “Shaq is not a guy who is even remotely comfortable playing anywhere but six or seven feet away from the basket. So, that’s going to be a challenge for Doc Rivers and his coaching staff to figure that out as well.”

All that said, Mannix said he thinks the signing is a good one for the Celtics. “He instantly becomes the best rebounder you have out there,” Mannix said. “And I’m not worried about him bogging down the fast break. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Kendrick Perkins wasn’t exactly Brad Daugherty running the floor out there for the Celtics. I just think overall, he’s a solid fit.”

Added Mannix: “While I understand the risks ‘€” and I think it’s a huge risk to a certain degree ‘€” you’re not going to get by Miami, you’re not going to get by Orlando unless you make an upgrade. And Shaq, to me, was the best available upgrade out there.”

Asked about controversial guard Delonte West, Mannix said it makes sense for the Celtics to bring him in. West was waived by the Timberwolves this week following a trade from Cleveland. “I think they should [sign him],” Mannix said. “Delonte obviously is familiar with the system, familiar with Boston, familiar with some of the pieces that are in place there. And he’s a proven combo guard. Obviously, the personal problems he’s had off the floor have been well-documented. … But again, you’re talking about adding guys for the minimum salary. If Delonte doesn’t work out ‘€” and I guess to a certain degree if Shaq doesn’t work out ‘€” you can just waive these guys.”

Read More: Chris Mannix, Kendrick Perkins, Rajon Rondo, Shaquille O'Neal

Shaq reportedly will sign two-year deal with C’s

08.04.10 at 9:58 am ET
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According to multiple reports, Shaquille O’Neal will sign a two-year deal with the Celtics. He will make the veteran’s minimum of $1.4 million next season. By comparison, O’Neal made $20 million last season as a member of the Cavaliers. Rumors have been swirled that O’Neal was in discussions with the Celtics, but no details about a contract had emerged, other than O’Neal telling Jimmy Kimmel that he wanted to play for two more years in the NBA. The Celtics were limited to offering the veteran’s minimum unless they orchestrated a sign-and-trade with Cleveland.

Read More: Rumor Mill, Shaquille O'Neal,

Report: Ex-Celtic Green to return to Russia

08.03.10 at 10:17 pm ET
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After attempting to get back in the NBA with the Lakers Summer League squad, Gerald Green is returning to Russia next season to play for BC Krasnye Krylia, the Hoops Market reported from the team’s official website. He played for BC Lokomotiv last season.

WEEI.com recently caught up with Green at the Las Vegas Summer League where he reflected on missed opportunities in the NBA and admitted he was humbled by his first international experience. He also believed he could still compete in the league and was determined to prove it.

‘€œMe going overseas, that right there was the worst I think I ever felt. I never would have thought that I ever would have been overseas,’€ the 24-year-old said. ‘€œBut going to Russia has humbled me and made me become a man, instead of a little boy that I used to be. ‘€¦ I think I’€™ve actually grown up from it, and I think that’€™s what I needed. I needed to grow up.’€

Green had hoped to stick with a team this summer but said that he would play again in Russia if that’s what it took to eventually return to the NBA. He last played in the NBA during the 2008-09 as a member of the Rockets.

Green was drafted by the Celtics with the 18th pick in the 2005 draft.

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Celtics to face Heat in opener

08.03.10 at 7:27 pm ET
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The NBA unveiled the schedule for their three marquee dates and all of them feature the Celtics.

The Celtics will open the NBA season with a home game against the Miami Heat on October 26 at 7:30 p.m. on TNT in a game that will be hyped as the New Big Three vs. The Old Big Three. Beyond that, the Celtics will get the first crack at what should be their toughest challenge in defending their Eastern Conference crown.

The Heat loaded up in the offseason adding LeBron James and Chris Bosh to team with Dwyane Wade, while the Celtics countered by signing ex-Heat center Jermaine O’Neal and possibly Shaquille O’Neal.

The second half of the opening night doubleheader will have the Rockets playing the Lakers in Los Angeles.

Like last season, the Celtics will be in Orlando on Christmas Day at 2:30 p.m. for a rematch of last season’s conference championship series. The Heat and Lakers will occupy the prime Christmas Day spot at 5 p.m.

The Magic will be in Boston on Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 17 with an 8 p.m. game at the Garden.

NBA.com has a full list of the opening week, Christmas and MLK games.

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Source: Shaq to Boston close, not done yet

08.03.10 at 4:43 pm ET
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Shaquille O’Neal is close to signing with the Celtics according to a source, but the deal is not done yet.

It’s a move that has been gathering momentum in recent days. Shaq went on Jimmy Kimmel Monday night and suggested that he and the Celtics would make a good match.

Unless the Celtics can work out a sign-and-trade with the Cavaliers, O’Neal would have to agree to sign for the veteran minimum of $1.4 million. Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Brian Windhorst indicated on Twitter that the two teams were not in sign-and-trade talks. If that’s the case then credit the Celtics for waiting him out while his price drops.

O’Neal has maintained that he wants to sign with a contender, but considering that Orlando, Miami and the Lakers were never real possibilities that left Shaq looking at the Celtics, Spurs and Hawks as viable destinations and both San Antonio and particularly Atlanta have cooled on the idea.

Even at age 38, Shaq would give the Celtics insurance while Kendrick Perkins rehabs from knee surgery. In a recent interview with Dime Magazine, Perkins said that doctors told him that he was ahead of schedule and was looking at a mid-February return. If Perkins is able to come back by then, he would still miss more than half the season and need to work his way back into playing shape.

The Celtics added Jermaine O’Neal for the full mid-level exception and without Perkins the center depth is O’Neal and untested rookie Semih Erden. Getting Shaq, even at age 38, would be a huge upgrade at the spot.

Since the 2004-05 season, Shaq has played more than 2,000 minutes just once (in 2008-09 with Phoenix) and he missed 29 games with the Cavaliers last season. But he can still score (12 points in less than 24 minutes a game) and his rebounding-rate numbers have held steady. He would also give the Celtics their best low-post scoring option by far.

Where he struggles is with pick and roll defense, but he can still hold his ground in the low post and the Celtics would be better-equipped to scheme around his deficiencies than most teams.

There’s also the notion of Shaq’s outsized personality. He had issues with the Celtics three biggest rivals — Miami, Orlando and Los Angeles, which would only add to the hype surrounding those matchups. Over the years, however, the Celtics have not shied away from adding outspoken veterans; Sam Cassell, Stephon Marbury and Rasheed Wallace to name three.

The free agent market has been picked clean at this point and so have opportunities for joining the true contenders. Shaq and the Celtics may just be a match whose time has come.

(CSN’s A. Sherrod Blakely was the first to report the two sides were close).

Read More: NBA Rumor Mill 2010, Shaquille O'Neal,
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