If the Celtics want to sign future Hall of Fame center Shaquille O’Neal this offseason, they better step on the gas pedal.

O’Neal reportedly is considering a two-year deal with the Atlanta Hawks that starts at the midlevel exception of $5.8 million, according to Fanhouse.com. The report cites sources close to both the center and Hawks.

The Hawks, who recently retained star shooting guard Joe Johnson with a six-year deal, were swept by the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference semifinals last year. Part of the reason was that Atlanta didn't have enough of a big-man presence to deal with Magic center Dwight Howard.

The 38-year-old O’Neal played in 53 games last year for the Cleveland Cavaliers, averaging 12 points and 6.7 rebounds in a little over 23 minutes per game. The Cavs also were beaten in the Eastern Conference semifinals, losing in six games to the Celtics.

The C’s have shown interest in signing Shaq as well, since they will be without starting center Kendrick Perkins until late December or early January.

"I think he wants to see how everything shakes out with all the free agents, but he's seriously considering Atlanta's offer,'' the source told Fanhouse. "He wants to play two more years, and he wants it to be with a contender. He thinks he can help them become a serious one.''

Wherever Shaq goes, he will be looking for his fifth NBA championship ring.