Source: Shaq to Boston close, not done yet
|08.03.10 at 4:43 pm ET|
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.
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