WALTHAM — A bow tie-wearing Shaquille O’Neal sported an ear-to-ear grin as he sat beside Celtics coach Doc Rivers for his introductory press conference on Tuesday. As forward and new teammate Kevin Garnett overlooked the event from a higher level at the Celtics’ practice facility, the center fielded questions and held up his No. 36 jersey as he is set to become the first player in franchise history to wear the number.
• Why No. 36?
“I’m in my 30s and this is my sixth team,” Shaq said with the smile. He also added he plans to have a clam chowder-eating contest with fellow big man Glen Davis.
• “I’m not sure what they’ll call him yet — the Leprechaun, the Green Monster — I’ve heard all these different things,” Rivers said. “The bottom line is we’re looking at Shaq as another piece of the puzzle.”
• Knowing that he won’t be expected to be as big of a presence as he’s had to be in other stops throughout his 18-year career, O’Neal seems fine with being more of a role player on the Celtics.
“Sometimes in order to win, you have to sacrifice,” said Shaq, who added that at the age of 38, he still has “hunger for the game.”
• The Celtics signed O’Neal last week to a two-year contract worth approximately $3 million. In an offseason in which the team looked to add big men with the signing of Jermaine O’Neal and hoped to make up for the MCL and PCL tears suffered by starting center Kendrick Perkins, Rivers was glad to bring Shaq into the fold.
“We wanted to address an area that we thought was a weekness last year,” said Rivers, who added the Celtics “struggled through Game 7 on the glass.”
• O’Neal, a 15-time All-Star, has totaled 28,555 points and 12,921 rebounds over his 18-year career between the Magic, Lakers, Heat, Suns, and Cavaliers. His numbers put him fifth and 14th on the all-time lists for points and rebounds, respectively.
• O’Neil has struggled throughout his career as a free throw shooter, posting a .527 career percentage from the foul line. If the hack-a-Shaq method ends up being a big part of the opponents’ game plans, Rivers is fine with it.
“I think Shaq has the ability to draw fouls,” Rivers said. “If we can get teams in penalty situations … we can take advantage of that. … You need size to win.”
Though the signing of O’Neal in Boston has gotten plenty of attention, the biggest story line has been two of O’Neal’s teammates in Dwyane Wade and Lebron James teaming with Chris Bosh to form a superteam in Miami. For now, Shaq is focused on one team: the Celtics.
“I don’t say anything to that,” O’Neal said of the attention James has gotten this offseason.
O’Neal has won four NBA titles, three of which came with the Lakers and the most recent of which came as a member of the Heat in 2006. He played in 53 games last season for the Cavaliers, scoring 636 points and adding 355 rebounds. His point total was the lowest of his career (for inquiring minds, he had two seasons in which he played less than 53 games prior to 2009-10).