MIAMI – As Doc Rivers was talking to a throng of reporters before the Boston Celtics’ shootaround at AmericanAirlines Arena this morning, I turned around and saw Shaquille O’Neal walking toward the Celtics’ locker room. Except that he wasn’t walking.
I’m not sure how bad Shaq’s limp was before this series began, but I can definitely say it was very pronounced this morning.
“There’s just nothing he can do,” Rivers said. “It’s not like he’s not trying. I told our team that yesterday. He’s done everything you possibly can do to get healthy. And unfortunately for him, he just hasn’t been able to do it.”
Obviously, with the possibility of Shaq’s season and career being over, a lot needs to be said and written. Here’s are some random thoughts that come to my mind…
Dec. 9, 2010 – Philadelphia
Shaq had played and started 13 straight games for the Celtics, but when he arrived in Philly, he was dealing with a calf problem. So the Celtics decided to hold him out. Here’s what he said at the time:
“As a youngster, I never thought the day would come, where you get older … Especially for me, I was young and I just had it all going on.
“Sometimes knick-knack injuries don’t go away. But with this team and this staff, they don’t want you to rush back. I’m from the old school, so I’m like, ‘Hey, shoot it up, give me some drugs.’ But they’re like, ‘Nah.’ Because we’re focusing on 1825.”
1825 = 18 banners for the Celtics; two titles for Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce; and five titles for Shaq.
“When he was originally injured, no one even thought it was that serious,” Rivers said today. “I think I remember saying it’s not even a big deal, I think he’ll be back in four or five days. It just never healed and it still hasn’t. And now every time he plays, it gets worse. So there’s just nothing you can do about it, and we haven’t, really.”
Feb. 13, 2011 – Boston
The Celtics are hosting the Miami Heat in their third regular season meeting. During a break in the action, I leave courtside to go retrieve something in the press room. But as I head out the tunnel, I run into Shaq, who’s missing his fifth straight game after playing 20 of the previous 23.
He doesn’t have a sport jacket, so he can’t sit on the Celtics’ bench. But rather than watching on TV in the trainer’s room, he’s watching from the corner of the arena, soaking up the atmosphere and keeping a close eye on the matchup that he came to Boston for. He clearly wants to be out there.
“I just know this has been emotionally draining to him, more than you guys would know,” Rivers said this morning. “He feels awful about this, because this is why he came here, to get to the playoffs and play in the playoffs. And not being able to do that has really hurt him.”
Feb. 24, 2011
Shortly before the trade deadline, the Celtics shock the league by trading Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. There were certainly long-term elements to the trade, but the Celtics insisted that they felt the deal made them better this year.
Their confidence came in part from how well they played when Shaq was healthy. And clearly, they didn’t realize at the time that he wouldn’t be healthy again this season.
Aug. 21, 2006 – Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.
I don’t think Shaq played a big role in LeBron James‘ development as a player (maybe more in regards to marketing), but when I think about his time with Dwyane Wade, I recall what Shaq told me about his teammate in an interview the summer after the Heat won the 2006 NBA championship.
“Everybody always talks about Carmelo and LeBron and they kinda leave him out. That kinda pisses him off a little bit. It really does. It pisses him off. And I remind him all the time. Because that’s what I used to do when I played against Alonzo [Mourning]. [Forget] ‘em. [Forget] ‘em all. You know, not personally, but on the court. [Forget] him. [Forget] Christian Laettner. [Forget] ‘em all.
“I told him. I said, ‘Look man, they talk about Kobe and T-Mac and all that. That’s where I want you to be next year. When they talk about those guys, I want them to say ‘and D-Wade.’ Not ‘Kobe, T-Mac, Carmelo, LeBron and that’s it.’ Your name has got to be in those five. No. 1, 2 or 3 at worst. You gotta be up there.'”
“He came into my life at a time when I needed some guidance, in a way,” Wade said today. “I was 22 years old. He helped me grow.
“I’m always appreciative of him for that, whether we speak another day or whether we don’t. He meant a lot to my basketball career and I meant a lot to his basketball career.”