Shaquille O’Neal Looking Old in a Good Way and Six Other Celtics Thoughts


Nov 30, 2010

Shaquille O'Neal Looking Old in a Good Way and Six Other Celtics Thoughts The song remains the same for the Celtics this week — they keep facing adversity, they keep moving past it and winning ballgames, and they keep sitting atop the Eastern Conference.

The latest dose of adversity was an especially sour one, though, as Delonte West went down Wednesday night with a broken wrist, the byproduct of a freak accident at the rim with Nets forward Travis Outlaw.

That which doesn't kill the Celtics should make them stronger, or so the adage goes. Can the C's battle on without their third guard? Let's answer that question and many more.

1. It's an admittedly tiny sample size, but the Celtics so far seem to be playing just fine without Delonte West. Out of their first 16 games, they've had West active and healthy from start to finish in just four — they're 2-2 in those contests, and 10-2 in the other 12. West might be the anchor of that second unit in a lot of ways, but the C's are managing without him. It's all a matter of tightening the rotation, getting a few minutes more out of each guard, and asking Nate Robinson to be a versatile backup that can play with or without the ball. It can be done.

2. The most alarming development with West out is this: It's demanding for Ray Allen. Allen has played 608 minutes so far this season, most on the team, putting him on a pace of 38.0 per game that's his highest in four years in Boston. It may not sound like much for a guy whose main role is to be a spot-up shooter, but it matters a lot. A tiny bit of fatigue can make all the difference for a guy like Ray — being one step slower is the difference between a wide-open jump shot and a contested one. The C's will have to find a way to limit Ray's playing time, even if he lacks a true backup.

3. So Rajon Rondo missed three games last week. Does that put him out of the running for John Stockton's single-season assist record? Absolutely not. Rondo is averaging 14.2 assists per game, which is exactly what Stockton averaged that year. Rondo would have to increase that number to 14.7 per game in order to reach Stockton's single-season mark of 1,164. It's a tall task, but Rondo has recorded 15 or more assists in seven of his 13 games this season, so don't count him out just yet.

4. You know who's not missing any games? Shaquille O'Neal. While the Diesel did miss a practice Monday because of a little scheduling confusion, he's been quite impressive when game time rolls around. He's averaging 13.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game since he returned three weeks ago from a knee injury, and Wednesday's 25 and 11 was his first 20-10 game in nearly two years. He didn't have a single 20-10 during his time in Cleveland; he threw down 22 points and 10 boards in a Phoenix win over Houston on April 1, 2009. Shaq is vintage Shaq again.

5. The Celtics take on the Bulls for the second time of the season on Friday night. The last time, it took overtime for the C's to gut out a win over Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah; this time might be even tougher. Carlos Boozer is back and practicing with the Bulls this week, and we're about to see how much better that team can be with its $75 million man in the fold. Boozer is likely to make his Bulls debut this week, either Wednesday against the Magic or Friday in Boston. We may be introduced to a new, legitimate threat to the Celtics' Eastern Conference crown.

6. It's been a bittersweet week for old Celtics castoffs. Antoine Walker may be reviving his career, as he's now angling for a return to the NBA via the D-League route, while Stephon Marbury parted ways this week with the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons, his Chinese pro team. Both Walker and Marbury serve as cautionary tales — NBA stardom can be fleeting. Both players signed eight-figure contracts early on, and both looked destined to be superstars forever, but they couldn't sustain it. Walker has since drowned in gambling debt, and Marbury has gone certifiably insane in front of a webcam for the world to see. You can't take anything for granted in today's NBA.

7. Speaking of things you can't take for granted, the Miami Heat are pretty far from the 72-win season everyone had envisioned. They're just treading water at 10-8, and it really makes you think about how fortunate the Celtics are that their Big Three experiment worked out in year one. These things aren't automatic — it takes selflessness, it takes smart X's and O's, and it takes a little bit of good timing and luck for everything to go according to plan. The Celtics have had an incredible run these last three-plus seasons, and thanks to the South Beach spectacle, they're now starting to see how good they have it in the Hub. Being a title contender every year is something special. Not everyone can be so lucky.

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