Author: Sam Byrne
The city of Boston enthusiastically welcomed the legendary Shaquille O’Neal to the TD Garden last August to enact the world-famous athlete’s desire to end his notable career with a championship victory.
The 39-year-old star joined the Celtics in hopes of leaving a mark on the game and adding his name to the list of those who have played before him, donning the classic green and white jersey like Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Bill Russell.
After signing with the Celtics, Shaq understood that due to his age and the dynamic of the team, he would have to adopt a new style of play that is more team-oriented than he was used to.
“For once in my career, I won’t have to hold anybody’s hand, and they won’t have to hold mine. I’m surrounded by veterans,” the 7’1″ powerhouse explained to ESPN.
This new role on the court did not prove much of a challenge for Shaq, as he as always admired and respected the Celtics’ top players.
Shaq admired them so much that in a 2001 game he played against the Celtics as a Laker, Shaq pulled a Boston reporter aside and said, “Take this down. My name is Shaquille O’Neal and Paul Pierce is the motherfucking truth. Quote me on that and don’t take nothing out. I knew he could play, but I didn’t know he could play like this. Paul Pierce is the truth.”
As a Celtics player, Shaq now has the opportunity to play alongside Pierce, as well as his other “Big Three” counterparts, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. Shaq’s addition to this unstoppable dynamism has evened out the guard to forward superstar ratio.
The Shaq-Garnett combination below the basket is certainly a force to be reckoned with, and with Pierce and Allen as guards, the Celtic’s starting lineup is nearly impenetrable when the stars are fully fit.
Shaq is a big target, the team just needs to find those easy looks under the bucket and make use of the big man as an inside scorer. His style by no means necessitates elegance.
In fact, anyone who has seen Shaq’s quintessentially horrendous free-throw or his bulldozing layup that is hard to differentiate from a flagrant charge, knows that gracefulness is not Shaq’s strong suit.
The 325-pound monster has only one job on the court: Use his size, get a few points and hold down the fort on defense, blocking whatever he can.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers brought the “Big Shaqtus,” as the all-star center is known, on board to fill in the gaps and act as a dominating force to compensate the for the few holes the Lakers were able to capitalize on in the past two finals.
The only problem is that Shaq has suffered four different injuries throughout the season, all related to his right leg, which has caused him to miss 43 games in total, according The New York Times.
Perkins would have been the go-to man to step in for Shaq in his absence, but Rivers traded Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder in February in exchange for Jermaine O’Neal, who is also currently recovering from injuries and therefore limited to a few minutes of playing time per game.
Boston is one of the smallest cities, but it has the biggest game, biggest heart and an unbelievable amount of die-hard fans.
Shaq may be injured, he may be old and he may become short of breath with every sprint down the court, but he plays for the Celtics now and part of a heritage that does not allow laziness or excuses.
Shaq is recovering quickly from his current calf-strain and will be expected to perform in full health in the Celtic’s upcoming games.
His presence on the team heading into the playoffs is crucial and will provide comfort to all those rowdy Bostonians who have adopted basketball as a religion, who bleed green and who expect nothing less than to flaunt a championship trophy alongside their this June.
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