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The Big Shamrock

Shaquille O'Neal a Celtic? It's hard to fathom. I have a hard time picturing The Big Aristotle clad in the Celtics' signature Kelly green. Do they have a uniform that will fit him? And what number will Shaq wear in Boston? I'm pretty sure No. 33 retired with Larry Bird.

But you know what? I like the move. Given a limited role, O'Neal can help an aging Celtics team over the final two years of his career. O'Neal, who didn't get a sniff from other NBA teams, signed a two-year, $3 million deal. That's chump change for a future Hall of Famer. It reflects the fact that O'Neal is near the end and is no longer capable of playing big minutes and performing at an All-Star level.

That's fine. The Celtics won't be asking him to be the missing piece -- which was the big mistake the Cavaliers made last year and the Suns before that. Those teams foolishly believed O'Neal could still be a primary player, a top caddy for a superstar on a legitimate NBA title contender. He hasn't been that player for at least four years. O'Neal is a defensive liability, perhaps the worst pick-and-roll defender in a pick-and-roll league.

Presumably, the Celtics will ask him to come off the bench and play 18-20 minutes a night. Kendrick Perkins, the starting center, could be out until February after knee surgery. So O'Neal can provide valuable minutes while Perkins is out, then ease off in time for the playoffs. He is still a viable post-up scorer. He commands a double-team down low and is a gifted passer. He can school the Celtics' young post players on offense. Defensively, they have enough talent and experience to cover for his deficiencies.

Somehow, the Celtics managed to get older. But they're going for it again with their aging core of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. They've also added another veteran big man in Jermaine O'Neal. If nothing else, they've cornered the market on O'Neals. 

Shaq will be good for the locker room, a source of leadership and levity. It can only help, as long as the organization understands his limitations and keeps expectations to a reasonable level. Imagine how much fun it will be if the Celts get one more shot at the Lakers and Kobe Bryant in the  NBA Finals -- with O'Neal playing against his former team.  
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