Shaq is Signing With Boston

According to A. Sherrod Blakely and a number of other sources, Shaquille O'Neal will sign with the Boston Celtics for the league minimum for a chance to win title number 5 and possibly face the Lakers and Kobe Bryant in the Finals.

From A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE:

Shaquille O'Neal has agreed to become a Boston Celtic, which would give the C's one of the most star-studded, Hall of Fame-bound lineups in recent memory.

Although O'Neal has said he wants to play at least two more seasons, his contract will be a one-year deal for the veteran's minimum.

For me, that is a real surprise. Not the signing (though that is a bit of a shock), but that Shaq is accepting the league minimum to play… anywhere.

A huge player with a huge ego has come to grips with reality and age. As the saying goes, he ain’t what he used to be.

But for a perennial league star and one of the world’s most visible athletes, make that 'most visible personalities' (TV shows, movies, cds, etc.) to go from $20 million to something slightly over $1 million per year says something about Shaq's desire to play with a contender, instead of just fading away - 'graciously' - as he puts it himself.

And 'gracious' certainly isn't the way Shaqzilla plays. His elbows are lethal weapons.

As Steve Weinman tweeted a little while ago…

    Trying to imagine my reaction if I had been told 6-8 years ago that the Celtics would have Ray Allen, Pierce, KG, Shaq and JO all at once...

And that is exactly the point. This is a without a doubt a tremendous cast of characters. 4 sure Hall of Famers, former All Star Jermaine O’Neal and current All Star Rajon Rondo and you have some serious ballin’ going on out there. But age is a factor for most of the key players.

I thought for sure that the issue was money (and playing time) and that the Cs were going to have to use the Wallace contract in a sign and trade with Dan Gilbert’s Cavaliers to make it happen. And that Gilbert would have done it gladly to spite a certain former player.

Schnikees. That means that Sheed contract is still available to use elsewhere. That is a story in itself.

So the Celtics will take care of a big need by signing both O’Neals – Jermaine and Shaquille, two centers who have seen better days, but still offer solid defense in the middle. They are quite different players and in some ways compliment each other.

When you want to draw defenses out of the middle Jermaine’s mid range game must still be respected. When you want to clog the middle, Shaq still is a force, rebounds well and can still block shots. Scoring-wise, Shaq was more productive last season than Rasheed.

Obviously, at 38 years old Shaq has lost something on both ends of the court. But I will say this. When many Celtic fans were laughing at Shaq signing with the Cavs last season, I was of the opinion that it would help Cleveland. I think it did, though Shaq has more pronounced weaknesses as he grows older.

Interesting enough, in earlier tweets today Chris Mannix voiced serious concern with Shaq’s pick and roll defense and his coachability.  Eddie Johnson also mentioned Shaq as a difficult player to coach and someone with a dominant presence like his affects any locker room – positively or negatively.

So, Danny and Doc, I’m sure had private discussions between themselves, brought it before the important players on the team and had clear discussions with Shaq himself about their vision for his role with the team. If they didn’t, that is where problems could pop up.

But the fact that Shaq is willing to take the minimum to play and has voiced his desire to play with the Celtics more than a few times makes things seem less risky. In fact, it could be that the Celtics just got a bit of good luck.

Once again, Danny Ainge and the tough but aging Celtics are a great story line for NBA writers everywhere, especially those on the Celtic beat.

The Celtics unconventional march to the Finals, the decision to retain a tough minded group of aging stars, a rising Rajon Rondo, and hopefully an improving bench are all great stories going into this season.

Now we can add the thought of a possible clash of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal in the Finals. Ratings would go through the roof.

Though Shaq is aging and near the end of a highly successful career this still qualifies as another 'wow' moment of the Danny Ainge Era, the NBA off season, and the Celtic march toward ‘Taking It Back in 2010’.

Doc will now have to maximize Shaq’s strengths and minimize his weaknesses through the Celtics sets at both ends of the floor.

With Kendrick Perkins out until sometime in early 2011, the Celtics have certainly addressed their needs in the middle.

As WEEI reports, Chris Mannix says it was not a unanimous decision...

"And for the Celtics, I can tell you this much, it was not a unanimous decision. This is not something that the entire front office and coaching staff entirely agreed upon. But it is a Danny Ainge type of move. He’s taken risks like this in the past, whether it’s Gary Payton or Stephon Marbury or Nate Robinson this past year. He’s taken chances on guys he thinks can help put them over the top. Danny obviously is convinced that Shaq is what this team needs right now."

While I am uncertain of just what Shaq has left, I am psyched to find out and though I think Rasheed Wallace threw them a curve ball last season, I trust still trust Doc and Danny to know what they are getting into.

At least Shaq won’t be clobbering Celtics in the middle anymore. He will be on our side.

Let the good times roll.

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