On Thanksgiving, we feast and reflect on everything we're thankful for in our lives. But on the eve of in the TD Garden, everyone was thankful for Shaquille O'Neal.
Shaq posted his best game as a member of the Celtics, scoring 25 points on 9-10 from the field, and grabbing 11 boards in 32 minutes of action helping the Celtics to an 89-83 win over the Nets. On a night that started off looking as if the C's would drop another one to a cellar dweller, the Big Shamrock would have none of it.
"That was the young one," said Doc Rivers comparing O'Neal to his younger years in the league. "I mean, he was just good. He had great energy. And - well we have to have it. ...He was just - his energy, his size, everything - he was just, he was phenomenal for us."
"He looked like the 2000 Shaq, the '99 Shaq, the 2001 and 20002 to 2003 to 2004 to 2005 to 2006 - he looked fresh tonight," Kevin Garnett raved. "He looked really good. I thought he did a great job getting us in the bonus early."
A sign in the Garden summed it up perfectly - "Shaq is Baq'. And he's back in a big way. With the injury to Jermaine O'Neal, and the inexperience of Semih Erden, Shaq has been thrown into the mix maybe more than he had originally expected when he signed here.
That's fine by him.
He has had back-to-back double-doubles, including Monday night's win over the Atlanta Hawks. In the last six games, he's averaging 14.7 points and 7.5 rebounds.
"I know I can still do it, that's why Danny signed me up, that's why I'm still here and that's why I've accomplished so much. But, you know, I have to thank my teammates because like I said I'm not really getting a lot of plays called but guys are penetrating and dropping it off and I'm just finishing."
The Garden was rocking, largely in part because of Shaq doing work down low. Just business as usual for Shaq, who came to Boston for one reason only.
"I think people appreciate my hard work, especially over the past 18 years. I think they understood that when I came here for the 1.5 (two year contract for roughly $3 million), they knew what was on my mind. For them, it'll be 18. For the big three, it'll be two. And for me it'll be big number five.. That's the only thing that I'll focus on right now.
Having four rings, it's obvious that Shaq has played on a lot of great teams, most notably the Lakers during their three-peat (2000-2002). That said, he's never been more excited for a team than this one.
"This is a great team. The best team I've been on. They've got a lot of weapons on this team, so on any given night anybody can be the leading scorer. The team's very unselfish so the shots are going to drop off and they easily could have shot them and did that but... great game. Great team effort. And now we've just got to keep it going."
Tough Break for West
With 2:43 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Delonte West went hard to the basket - and came down even harder. What appeared to be a bump from Travis Outlaw as West got to the hoop ended with a broken right wrist, an injury that will sideline West for months.
"Well I knew he was hurt because I know Delonte just from being around him," Paul Pierce said. "The type of person he is, he's a guy that if he's injured you don't know that he's injured because he's going to get right back up easily 99-percent of the time."
Add another injury to the laundry list of players that can't seem to avoid the inactive list.
"What's new?" Questioned Pierce when asked about the injuries affecting the team. "We've been dealing with this for the last couple years. I mean we're going to respond. We're not a team that hangs our hats and makes excuses because one guy, two guys, three guys are down. We feel like the guys we put on the floor are more than capable of getting the job done..."
It's clearly a blow for the Celtics, but an even bigger one for West himself, who was just getting back with the team after sitting out the first ten games of the season. How frustrating it must be for West, who has had to deal with so much recently and now this on top of it all.
"It's tough losing Delonte," Garnett said. "It's tough losing anybody, but just seeing this transition and where he's at and the work he's put and then having to be responsible and sit down for a minute and come back and give us a huge lift, especially with Rondo out and then to lose him; it's tough."
"It's just sad to see a player go down who already had to sit 10 games, was starting to get into a flow, try to get in to a little rhythm," Pierce said. "It's tough mentally to have to deal with injury. I had to deal with injuries and I can't imagine how he feels right now. I know he's frustrated because he's had a long road just getting back on the court... It's going to be tough on him but it's up to the players to keep him involved mentally, just make him still feel part of the team. I think that's the most important thing when guys get hurt just keeping them around keeping them a part of the team.
Shaquille O'Neal took a more upbeat approach to the situation, saying that when West comes back around February (Shaq guessed West would be down for three months), he'd be playing with a chip on his shoulder. He also added that they'll be getting Perkins back around the same time and will get it all together before the playoffs.