“We did it, 19 years baby,” O’Neal said. “I want to thank you very much. That’s why I’m telling you first: I’m about to retire.”
O’Neal played in 37 games in his one season with the Celtics . He only appeared in one regular-season game after Feb. 1 because of an Achilles injury, and in that game he lasted just five minutes against the Pistons. O’Neal was then able to play in just two playoff games for a total of 12 minutes.
When he was able to play, O’Neal played a vital role in the Celtics early-season success. Without Kendrick Perkins , who was rehabbing from knee surgery, and Jermaine O’Neal , who had his own injury problems, Shaq averaged nine points and five rebounds and shot 67 percent from the floor. The Celtics went 27-9 with him in the starting lineup.
His injury had a devastating effect on the Celtics’ title chances. At the time, team president Danny Ainge made the Perkins trade, he did so with the assumption that O’Neal would be back soon to man the center position.
“Shaq brought us our best offense that we’ve had in four years when he was healthy and playing well,” Ainge said. “We had every indication from Shaq, from doctors and trainers that Shaq would be healthy and should have no issues by trade deadline. That changed. Maybe we should have taken his age into more consideration.”
O’Neal’s decision to retire has little effect on the Celtics plans for next season. He has a player option that would pay him on the veteran minimum so the team won’t see any benefit in the way of cap relief.