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As Kendrick Perkins went down with a knee injury last month in Los Angeles, it soon became obvious that his rehabilitation would likely extend into the 2010-2011 season. As the Celtics look to add a serviceable big man in his place, there are murmurs that Boston has their eye on Shaquille O’Neal. According to unnamed sources, he’s looking at Boston, too. O’Neal is fast becoming a body-for-hire in the NBA, a far cry from the halcyon days of the Diesel’s dominance, but he could be exactly what the Celtics need as they await Perkins’ return.
Boston, Atlanta, and Dallas have each reportedly expressed interest in O’Neal, though the only person on record is O’Neal’s agent Perry Rogers, who refuted claims that the Hawks had made an offer.
All three teams would need to sign O’Neal under the league’s mid-level exception as they all find themselves with little or no room under the salary cap. O’Neal, who was bounced from last season’s playoffs as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, has some interesting ties to the Celtics. He has known Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce for years, and has been known to speak very highly of Celtics coach Doc Rivers. Pierce’s nickname “The Truth” was given to him by O’Neal after a particularly dominating performance against the Lakers in 2005, when O’Neal was the face of that franchise.
“My name is Shaquille O’Neal and Paul Pierce is the [expletive] truth. Quote me on that and don’t take nothing out. I knew he could play, but I didn’t know he could play like this. Paul Pierce is the truth.”
The name stuck, and the rest is history. A union of these two players could prove to be an apt and poignant way to wind down their lengthy careers.
Though O’Neal averaged a utilitarian 12 points and 6.7 rebounds per game last season, he still considers himself a frontline starter. He’s not–but Boston could do worse in keeping Perk’s seat warm.