Shaquille O'Neal is about to take his talents to South Bay -- Boston, that is. The 38-year-old, 15-time All-Star is close to agreeing to a deal with the Celtics, a person with knowledge of the agreement confirmed to CBSSports.com.
Shaq, soon to be known as the Big Shamrock -- or, fill in your favorite nickname -- is on the verge of accepting the veteran's minimum starting at about $1.4 million, the person with knowledge of the deal said. The number of years was still being worked out Tuesday, but Comcast SportsNet-New England -- which first reported the Shaq-to-Celtics news -- said O'Neal is seeking a two-year deal. In all likelihood, the second year would be a player's option.
As Royce Young pointed out , the fit is ideal for both O'Neal and the Celtics. Shaq, who struck out in his bid for a fifth championship last season with LeBron James in Cleveland, wants one more shot with a veteran-laden, contending team. The Celtics, who already have added another O'Neal (Jermaine) to bolster their frontcourt, needed another experienced big man to help them navigate the early part of the regular season while Kendrick Perkins recovers from a knee injury sustained in the Finals against the Lakers.
Shaq had significant talks with the Hawks about bolstering their young roster with his experience, but the Celtics are a better fit. The no-nonsense, winning culture that Doc Rivers has created will be the perfect environment for Shaq to thrive with whatever abilities he has left in the tank. Based on his increased production in the playoffs, it appeared to me that Shaq had more to offer last season than former Cavs coach Mike Brown was willing to give him a chance to provide. Rivers, however, will have to wrestle with the glaring deficiency in Shaq's game at this stage of his career -- the same issue that caused Brown to skimp on his minutes last season: Shaq's defensive abilities have declined far more than his offensive talents.
Rivers will have to figure out a way to incorporate Shaq into the Celtics' team defensive concepts, a task that won't be easy with the departure of associate head coach Tom Thibodeau, architect of Boston's defense during the Big Three era. But once Perkins is back, Shaq's presence will give Rivers more flexibility with his front line in the playoffs than he's had in recent years. When he needs a basket on the block, he can go to Shaq. When the situation calls for a defensive presence, he can go with Perkins.
When he needs a free throw from either one, forget it -- but hey, nobody has a perfect plan for next season other than the Miami Heat. At least Shaq didn't wind up there.
In all seriousness, O'Neal's presence in Boston could represent the Big Antidote to Miami's Big Three of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The only glaring weakness in the Heat's rotation is at the center position, so Shaq-to-Boston makes even more sense when you consider that. And we won't have long to wait to see it happen, with the Heat and Celtics reportedly opening the 2010-11 regular season on Oct. 26 in Boston.