Shaquille O’Neal’s Declining Basketball Ability Puts Damper on Celtics Signing


Shaquille O'Neal's Declining Basketball Ability Puts Damper on Celtics Signing The Shaquille O'Neal signing has brought a ton of excitement to Boston — perhaps a little too much.

Sure, for those of us who get to write about the Celtics, and for talk radio hosts and for SportsCenter anchors with their snappy catchphrases, the signing is a godsend. But is it really all that great for the Celtics?

Everyone knows that Kendrick Perkins will be out until at least the early part of 2011 (unless he starts training with Wes Welker), and nobody is all that comfortable trusting Jermaine O'Neal to all of a sudden become a dominant force in Perkins' absence. But a 38-year-old Shaq? That's the best solution?

Obviously, The Big Shamrock (or whatever wily nickname he'll create) hasn't been called "dominant" in quite some time. He didn't really work out in Phoenix, and he wasn't able to help bring LeBron James his first NBA title. Now, he's joining an old Celtics team that already has three stars in their mid-30s (Paul Pierce will be 33 in October, Kevin Garnett is 34 and Ray Allen is 35), a team that ran out of gas in the fourth quarter of Game 7 of the NBA Finals, a team that time after time failed to close out victories in the fourth quarter, a team that finished 16th in made 3-pointers and 21st in free-throw percentage … and he's going to make that team better?

It's not Celtics fans fault, really. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of landing a big-time celebrity. That said, David Beckham didn't bring any MLS Cups to the Galaxy. Mannywood is no more at Dodger Stadium, and there are thousands of dreadlocked wigs collecting dust in closets in Los Angeles County. Washington celebrated when it played host to Michael Jordan's comeback … which, coincidentally, happened when M.J. was 38.

When you get a star well past his prime, you're getting a lot of flash and a lot of headlines, but not much else.

In the case of the Celtics, they are getting that — but also some undeniable benefits. Name a situation, and Shaq's been in it. If he chooses to impart some of that Big Aristotle wisdom, he can be a strong influence on the continuing development of Perkins. He'll also provide the C's with some obvious size, and given that the team won't be relying on him for too many minutes, he can step up his physical game (and you can ask Rajon Rondo how he feels about that).

On a lesser level, Doc Rivers will at least be able to bring a somewhat-intimidating name off the bench, if nothing else. (Sorry, Brian Scalabrine.)

Aside from that, the Celtics will be able to paste Shaq's giant melon all over some fancy new billboards. They'll have perhaps the most exciting media day in team history. They may even get an extra TNT game this year. They'll get all of that, but they won't be getting much better as a basketball team.

The ultimate cold shower for an excited Celtics fan is simple: Find some DVDs of the Celtics-Cavaliers series, and watch with a discerning eye. Watch Shaq move up and down the court. Watch him struggle to overpower or outsmart the smaller and less-experienced Perkins, his old-man post moves, his lack of body control. Watch O'Neal and his minus-26 rating in those six games, and ask yourself if he's the guy who will take this Celtics team over the top.

You won't like the answer.

That's not to pop the balloons at the party, but it is reality. Shaquille O'Neal is a worldwide megastar, one who has cook-offs against Rachael Ray and dance-offs with Justin Bieber, but he's not an elite basketball player, and for this Celtics team, he's not the answer.

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