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Shaq and the bench question

08.10.10 at 3:02 pm ET

On the day he was introduced as Celtic, Shaquille O’Neal artfully maneuvered around the question of whether or not he will start at center next season.

“There will be an O’Neal on the floor,” Shaq said referring to himself and Jermaine O’Neal, the Celtics other key free agent center acquisition. Shaq went on to say that it didn’t matter to him who started.

In the days leading up to the signing, Doc Rivers was brutally honest with Shaq about his playing time, about his motives and whether he would accept coming off the bench.

“I told him there was not 30 minutes on this team,” Rivers said. “There will be 20-25 minutes. I asked him if that was OK because that’€™s the only way it will work. We talked about coming off the bench. It’€™s very important when you get a guy like Shaq to be up front and honest and tell him where you see he’€™ll be. If he can accept that he’€™ll fit our mold.”

Rivers would prefer for Shaq to come off the bench because it would give the second-unit a low-post scorer, something it hasn’t had since Leon Powe was healthy. Rivers prefers to set his lineups and stick with them, but this lineup could present some interesting possibilities.

“I think that Shaquille and Jermaine could play together,” Danny Ainge said. “I think Jermaine and [Kevin Garnett] can play together. One of the things I like is there are interchangeable pieces. Glen Davis and Shaq can play together, Glen Davis and Jermaine can play together. Any of those four combinations can play well together.”

The Celtics contacted Shaq’s representatives on July 1, but weren’t sure that he would agree to their terms. They still didn’t know how it would play out until last week when Shaq’s people told Ainge that they were ready to sign and do it on the Celtics terms. That last part is key to making it work in a locker room with more than its share of outsized personalities.

” The reason we’€™re bringing in these personalities is because we have a pretty solid locker room with KG, Paul and Ray.,” Rivers said. “We did it last year with Rasheed [Wallace] and now we’€™re trying to do wit with Shaq. There’€™s no guarantees though. There never is. Chemistry is a delicate thing. This has to be about the Celtics and it has to be winning. If there’€™s any other motives or agendas’€¦ I was very honest with him, that’€™s why he’€™s here.”

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