I’ve been throwing out a weird theory in discussion with my friends. I didn’t want to put it into writing, mostly because my theory involves a 38-year old man injecting youthful enthusiasm into a group of younger men, but I quickly decided this preseason that Shaq is a shot of adrenaline to a Celtics team that needed one last year.
Maybe this isn’t the right time to finally unveil my theory to the world (after the Celtics looked both old and disinterested last night), but Paul Pierce lent it some credence in an interview with WEEI.
“I love Shaquille in the locker room,” Pierce said. “The one guy he’s making better on and off the court is Kevin. You can just tell with Kevin’s attitude, he’s a lot more loose than he’s ever been. Kevin really listens to a lot of things Shaq has to say because they’ve been through their wars together and I know Kevin has a lot of respect for Shaq and what he’s done in this league, as do all of us. His presence has really helped us out as a ballclub, in the locker room and on the court.”
If nothing else, Shaq brings a level of fun. Think about all the good-natured pranks the Celtics pulled this preseason – most of them involved Shaq. He was dunked on by Nate Robinson and drop-kicked by Robinson and Rajon Rondo. He got popcorn thrown on his face at the movie theater, performed an odd but hysterical Halloween dance, and also let Robinson run a suicide in his size-22 shoes. To a team that became bored with last year’s regular season, Shaq brings an element of joy. He brings a new energy and an unbridled enthusiasm for basketball, if not life.
Again, it’s the wrong time to unearth this theory. None of the Celtics had much fun last night, you know? But Shaq has rejuvenated a Celtics team that had become sick of the regular season. KG has a pep in his step again and a glimmer in his eye, and while part of that is due to his regained health, part of it — according to Pierce, who knows better than I do — is due to Shaq’s presence. And though Shaq’s fun ways didn’t bring a win last night, though last night’s loss resembled so many disappointing losses from last year, I still believe in my theory:
Signing Shaq — the 38-year old who happens to be the NBA’s oldest active player — actually made the Celtics younger. In spirit, that is. Obviously. In age, he’s really, really old. But his youthful exuberance will help the Celtics avoid long stretches of boredom and listless play.
Or maybe not. I just had a flashback to last night.