Shaquille O’Neal, Jermaine O’Neal to Battle for Injured Kendrick Perkins’ Spot

Shaquille O'Neal, Jermaine O'Neal to Battle for Injured Kendrick Perkins' Spot WALTHAM, Mass. — The question is on everyone's minds going into this upcoming season, but no one has any answers: Will Shaquille O'Neal start for the Celtics when the NBA season opens next month?

Everyone in the C's camp has been mum on the subject. Neither Shaq nor his younger counterpart, Jermaine O'Neal, had anything to say on the subject at media day on Monday afternoon, and GM Danny Ainge shot back a blunt "I don't know" when the question was directed his way. Only coach Doc Rivers had anything to say on the subject, and even he wasn't imparting much wisdom on the center dilemma.

"That's what camp is for," Rivers said of his decision between the two O'Neals. "I haven't coached either one of them, so I don't know how they'll look on the floor — besides big. So I'm just going to wait and see. I have a picture every year going into the year, but that doesn't mean I don't change it."

It's likely that Rivers is leaning toward Jermaine, who is nearly seven years younger than Shaquille and brings the athleticism required to anchor the Celtics' front line defensively. But absolutely nothing is set in stone, and the Celtics aren't used to beginning training camp with this much uncertainty.

This is the first time in years that the C's have opened camp without a set starting five.

"Well, we have four," said Rivers. "So that helps. And Jermaine and Shaq, they've been in the league long enough, I'm hoping, that it won't be that hard to put them in as a fifth guy."

Jermaine brings the defense, the rebounding and the selflessness to be a solid cog in the Celtics' machine. O'Neal brings the massive post presence and the ability to score on the block — and he's got 1,161 games worth of experience as an NBA starter. Either one would be a good fit in the starting position, and it may be a while before we know which guy wins out.

For now, all we know is that Kendrick Perkins can't wait to get healthy and send both O'Neals back to the bench.

"I really don't want to answer this question because I really don't want to start anything," said the Celtics' injured starting center. "But my spot's not up for grabs. When I come back, I will be getting my spot, and everybody else just has to adjust to me."

Good to know something around here is certain.

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