Shaquille O’Neal Signs To The Boston Celtics
Shaquille O’Neal was introduced as a member of the Boston Celtics on Tuesday morning, saying that the sole reason he came to Boston was to try to add to his title haul and that he is willing to play any role Doc Rivers envisions for him.
“When I came into the league, I wanted to compete with Bill Russell for titles,” O’Neal said with Russell’s 11 championship banners hanging above him. “That’s not going to happen, but I’d like to almost get half of what he got.”
O’Neal, who was decked out in a pinstriped suit and a bow tie for the introduction, could start the season as the Celtics’ backup center, with Jermaine O’Neal taking the starting spot while Kendrick Perkins works his way back from knee surgery. No matter the role, the 38-year-old Shaq insisted Tuesday that he still has the same fire.
“I still have hunger, I still can play, I still want to win,” O’Neal said. “When I close my book at the end of the day it’s all about winning, nothing else.”
Shaq, who has won four NBA titles over the course of his career, told reporters he had hoped to end his career with five or six titles. He signed a two-year deal with the Celtics in what is likely his final NBA contract.
“This summer I had many options but I wanted to be with a team that was used to winning, with a team that was one or two pieces away,” O’Neal said. “I think it’s a good fit.”
Rivers, who sat next to Shaq during the press conference, said the team had hoped to address a rebounding weakness in the offseason and that the addition of O’Neal went a long way toward doing that. He also noted that Shaq’s ability to get opposing defenders into foul trouble will be an added benefit.
“You need size to win,” Rivers said. “We think we’ve filled that void pretty well today.”
Now weighing in at 345 pounds — he was 294 at LSU — O’Neal averaged 12 points and 6.7 rebounds for the Cavaliers last season, when he was brought to Cleveland in the hopes that he would be the missing piece that would help LeBron James win his elusive NBA title. He also missed almost two months of the regular season after injuring his thumb against the Celtics.
“I told him there won’t be 30 minutes [for him] on this team; there will be 20-25,” Rivers said. “I asked him if that would be OK, because that’s the only way it’s going to work.”
And it was OK with O’Neal, who hit the free agent market seeking a two-year deal worth a reported $8 million to $10 million a season. The Celtics expressed an interest — though not at that price — and general manager Danny Ainge moved on to pursue other options.
As the summer wore on, though, O’Neal came around. Ainge said O’Neal’s agent called and said, “Shaq would like to play there, and he’s willing to come on your terms.”
“I think Shaq’s a guy who can still make a difference,” Ainge told reporters in a conference call after the news conference. “When he was in his prime, he was considered one of the best who has ever played. Shaq coming to our team right now, our expectations won’t be that. We expect him to contribute to our team and play a role off our bench.”
The Celtics won their NBA-record 17th championship in 2008, then returned to the finals last year before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games. While the Miami Heat have rebuilt around Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, the Celtics have largely brought back the core of last season’s team, re-signing Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to keep them alongside Garnett and point guard Rajon Rondo.
“I realize I only have 730 days left in this game. I just wanted to be with a group of guys that like to win,” O’Neal said. “This was a good team with or without me. I don’t mind playing a role. I know where I am at this point in my career. It’s about coming to a team that is one or two pieces from a championship.”
O’Neal also thanked new teammate Kevin Garnett, who flew in from Hawaii to be at the press conference.
In terms of nicknames, O’Neal said he liked the Big Shamrock but was also partial to the Big Green Mile.
The team also announced that it had signed rookie Luke Harangody to a contract, leaving the roster at the maximum of 15 players. The number, however, includes Rasheed Wallace, who plans to retire.