The ESPN summer forecast continues, and the latest question is: What should the Celtics expect from Shaq? Here’s Tommy’s answer:
Tommy King, Celtics Town (22 minutes, 10 points, 5 rebounds)
Shaq’s role is going to be simple: score and rebound. Last season, the Celtics ranked 25th in rebound differential, getting outrebounded by an average of 1.47 rebounds per game. Shaq needs to limit the opposition’s second-chance points, while adding a few of his own. Shaq’s defensive liabilities (especially pick-and-roll defense) have been well-chronicled, so he will have to make up for his defense by scoring at a high rate. Expect the Celtics to go to Shaq in the post when the second unit needs a hoop, and expect Shaq to finish plays around the rim like he has his entire career. As the backup center, Shaq will be the leader of the second unit, though he will occasionally play extended minutes with the starters.
The Celtics know Shaq isn’t what he used to be. But they also know that he’ll immediately be the C’s best rebounder and low-post scorer. Even at 38 years old, he can do those things. He’ll probably be able to do those things until he’s 50.
The problem is on defense. As Doc Rivers told ESPN 980 in Washington, DC, “Everyone is going to run pick and roll and no one has been successful in figuring out how to use him. I’m no smarter than anyone else. That’s all we’ve been focusing on this summer, trying to figure out what we’re going to do in pick and rolls when he comes into the game.”
Will the Celtics be able to hide Shaq’s defensive deficiencies? Not entirely, at least. As Doc said, no team has yet. But I do know that Shaq will be able to score and rebound. And as long as he’s coming off the bench, that’s enough for me. At least until the first time I see Steve Nash dribble around the pick and roll, right into an unmolested 18-foot jumper.