This time last year, we were all excited to have Shaquille O’Neal as a part of the Cavaliers. Well, maybe not all of us down to a person, but most of us. The Cavs didn’t give up much, and it seemed like the best available deal while not giving up anything at all. Obviously it didn’t pan out in the end and now it seems like Shaq might have helped implode the Cavaliers season with his infamous gas can that he totes from place to place. Shaq has gained a bit of a reputation for being a bit of a cancer and blowing up every place he goes at some point or another.
In the early days of Shaq’s career, it was fine because his talent and dominance on the court overshadowed the negatives. Remember last year when Shaq came in and said all the right things? “I want to win a ring for the king.” He seemed to finally be accepting his role as a role player. In the end, I wouldn’t say it really worked like that.
I won’t blame Shaq for the collapse of the Cavaliers, but let’s look at this. Shaq’s involvement with the team eventually caused Mike Brown to endure his worst criticism as Cavs coach because Shaq’s playing time came at the expense of J.J. Hickson. Shaq is an outspoken veteran, do you think he might have talked his way into the playing time, or did he sit there like a good role player waiting to see if coach called his number? This week, Scott mentioned the whispers about a possible physical confrontation in the locker room between Shaq and LeBron.
Prior to this season and Shaq’s arrival in Cleveland, Bill Simmons had said that the Cavaliers were about the tightest knit team in the NBA with their handshakes and pre-game rituals. Simmons’ claim is that “something happened” to the Cavaliers team. Obviously Bill Simmons hasn’t drawn the conclusion that Shaq had anything to do with it because after the Celtics signed Shaq, he said he could talk himself into it by mid-August.
Yes, the Celtics are a different team than the Cavaliers. They have three veterans in KG, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce where the Cavaliers only had a domineering 25 year-old man-child who owned the locker room. The Cavaliers had a coach who has never played the game before while the Celtics have Doc Rivers, who probably has more ability to talk to players and reach them. Shaq might not be capable of pulling the same act in Boston that he seemingly did in Cleveland. Certainly everyone’s worst fears about Rasheed Wallace kind of came true, but he wasn’t able to derail the Celtics as they made a championship run. Then again, Rasheed and Shaq are completely different animals so who can say?
Meanwhile, on Twitter and in the blogs, I am reading Boston fans working on Shaq’s new nickname. Some have said they want to call him “The Big Shamrock.” A year prior, we were trying to figure out if we should call him “Witness Protection.” It just seems eerily similar, and yet Boston is another team, after Cleveland and after Phoenix, who will stare history in the face and hope it will be different. Maybe it will. Shaq has another year under his belt and Boston is a completely different team at a completely different stage of their lifecycle. Then again, would you bet on Shaq working out after seeing him the last year in Cleveland?