On Monday, coach Doc Rivers declared it "most likely" — a day later, he's made it official. Shaquille O'Neal will be the Celtics' starting center as they take the court Tuesday night against the Miami Heat.
As Jermaine O'Neal has battled minor injuries all preseason and Shaq has been a pleasant surprise, it's natural for Rivers to go with his 38-year-old future Hall of Famer in the starting role for the season opener. Shaq will start and play big minutes in his debut as Boston's "Big Shamrock," while Jermaine O'Neal will have a starring role off the bench against the Heat, his former team.
For the Celtics, the hope is for one Big Three to neutralize another. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen will clamp down defensively on Miami's power trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and that should open the door for Shaq and Rajon Rondo to seize the night.
The Heat's collection of talent is fearsome on paper, but the Celtics have exactly the right pieces to play them straight up. For the Heat, the big question will be — who can stop Rondo?
The Celtics are hoping the correct answer is "nobody."
Here's the full lineup card for game one of the 2010-11 NBA season:
Rajon Rondo, PG
Ray Allen, SG
Paul Pierce, SF
Kevin Garnett, PF
Shaquille O'Neal, C
Joel Anthony, C
Chris Bosh, PF
LeBron James, SF
Dwyane Wade, SG
Carlos Arroyo, PG