A day of Shaq sights and sounds

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A day of Shaq sights and sounds

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com

WALTHAM - Delonte West stepped down off a stool as he finished addressing a pack of reporters. Suddenly, there was a scurry to move the stool out of the way. Shaquille O'Neal was due up next, and reaching a microphone or recorder up to the big man would be nearly impossible if he weren't given a few more inches.

O'Neal's presence was felt in more ways than one on Celtics Media Day. Whether he was drawing an overflowing crowd during an interview or attracting a group of onlookers while he posed for photos, Number 36 was the number one topic of conversation.

Following Doc's Orders: MVP awards, All-Star selections, statistical accomplishments . . . O'Neal has amassed so many personal achievements that they aren't the reason why he plays basketball any more. He signed with the Celtics to help them win a title, whatever the role entails.

"Whatever Doc needs me to do, that's what I'm going to do," O'Neal said. "You know, when I first came in, my first 17 years were all about me and scoring, and now that that part of my game is over, now it's time for me to be a damn good role player. So whatever Doc and the city of Boston needs me to do, that's what I'm going to do."

It's Not About Kobe: When Kobe Bryant captured his fifth NBA championship with a Game Seven win over the Celtics in June, he proclaimed, "I just got one more than Shaq." O'Neal heard the comment . . . he just isn't focusing on it during his quest for number five.

"Yeah, I heard it," he said. "My whole career I've been the measuring stick for excellence, so I'm glad to see I'm still relevant. But I would've been more upset, more hurt if Tim Duncan would've made the comment. I don't compete with guards. They have the ball more than I do, they shoot way more than I do, you can't compete with guards. I'm only competing with Tim Duncan, so hopefully I can get number five before Tim Duncan gets it, respectfully competing with Tim Duncan."

Light on his feet: ONeal has laid off hamburgers, fried chicken, macaroni, and cornbread to stay in shape this summer. He clocks in at 345 pounds, a weight he plans on maintaining throughout the season. His teammates have noticed how well he is moving on the court.

"We've played in a couple pickup games," said Paul Pierce. "He looks good, just him getting up and down the court. In one pickup game, he got three fast-break layups. You don't really hardly hear about Shaq getting fast-break layups. But he's looked good. I think he's looked better than I guess people anticipated. A lot of people say he comes and gets in shape in camp, but he looks really good in the pickup games we've playing the last couple of weeks."
A Voice of Experience: West played with O'Neal last season on the Cavaliers and looks forward to sharing a locker room with him again. He describes watching O'Neal interact with the Celtics' Big Three as "unreal" and believes the entire team can learn from him in his 19th season.

"Just playing with him for the time I did in Cleveland, this guy has so much to offer, so much knowledge, the young guys hanging on to his every word," said West. "At the end of the day, in my opinion, he's still one of the top 10 players to ever do it. There's a lot of knowledge there. He's won championships and for some reason we still have this opinion in our minds, we still hope he goes out and scores 50 and has 25 rebounds and breaks five backboards in one game. He just wants to win and we talk about it all the time. We did all last year. He just wants to help win and do what he does to help the team win."

Added Danny Ainge, "Shaq obviously has a great deal of cache in our locker room because of what he's accomplished in his career . . . Shaq's been around a long time and I think he wants to win as bad as anybody, so I have a great deal of confidence that he'll be a positive influence in our locker room."

Comfortable in Green: O'Neal admits he never pictured himself wearing a Celtics uniform early in his career. But now that he's slipped on the white and green jersey, he likes the way it looks.

"I never really envisioned myself being here as a young guy, but sitting back this summer I made a very important decision to come to a team that was rich in the tradition of winning," he explained. "I watched the guys last year, especially when they beat us the Cavaliers, and I've been a fan of the Big Three and how they've been playing a long time. I figured this is a place I want to spend my last 735 days."

O'Neal added, "For me, I've always been a smart businessman and always been a guy to take advantage of opportunities. So it was an opportunity for me to come here and play with some great guys and hopefully we can get it done. Because I know if we get it done, I'll be, I think, the first guy to win with three different teams. I like making history, so hopefully it happens."

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comjcamerato

Chris Mannix: 'Great chance' Celtics capture No. 1 seed

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Chris Mannix: 'Great chance' Celtics capture No. 1 seed

Chris Mannix discusses the Boston Celtics chances of sealing the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and which low-seed team will give them the most problems in the playoffs.

Kelly Olynyk's 3-point game is helping him produce all over floor

Kelly Olynyk's 3-point game is helping him produce all over floor

Waltham, mass. – Kelly Olynyk is in a good place right now. 

He’s playing a key role on one of the top teams in the NBA, doing more than just stretch the floor with long-range jumpers and 3-pointers. He has been a solid positional defender most of his time in the NBA, but lately he has become one of the team’s best rebounders … really!

But more than anything, Olynyk is in the best shape of his career both mentally and physically, delivering strong play in several categories.

“When he plays aggressive and with confidence, that’s when he’s at his best,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. 

And lately, the best of Olynyk has been in steady rotation for the Celtics who will host the Phoenix Suns tonight. 

Olynyk attributes his recent strong play to seizing his opportunity to help the Celtics in what has been a season-long area of weakness. The fourth-year big man is a threat to score from 3-point range whenever he’s on the floor. Because of that, teams are overly concerned about his long-range shooting which has allowed him to be an effective driver into the paint and finisher around the rim. 

He has also benefited by being healthy, something he could not say was the case on the eve of the Celtics’ postseason run last season which ended in the second round to the Atlanta Hawks. Olynyk was hampered by a sore right shoulder injury that limited him in the playoffs against Atlanta, and later required surgery which sidelined him for the start of this season. 

But those pain-filled days where he gave more thought to his shoulder rather than shouldering a greater load for the Celtics, are behind him now. 

“It’s something that I had to deal with and I had to get surgery,” Olynyk said. “Now it feels better than it has. I feel strong, confident, ready to roll.”

Boston has won five of its last six games, and the play of Olynyk off the bench has been among the reasons for the team’s latest run of success. In those six games, Olynyk has averaged 10.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists while shooting a team-high 64.9 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from 3-point range in 20.5 minutes per game – all better than his season average in those respective categories. 

And among Celtics players who have averaged double-digit minutes in that span, Olynyk has a team-best rebounding percentage of .170 in addition to an effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) of .689 which is also tops among Boston players during their last six games.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens isn’t surprised to see Olynyk playing as well as he has now that he’s injury-free.

“I don’t think there’s anything more important than playing with clear minds and fresh legs,” Stevens said. “I just think that, and not being injured is a big part of that.”

For Olynyk, part of the challenge he has had since coming to the NBA was finding that balance between being aggressive and assertive, while making sure he got teammates involved when the opportunity presents itself.

“There’s definitely a fine line between being aggressive, forcing things, over-aggressive and create and open things up for others,” Olynyk said. “It’s kind of a balance, kind of like a yin and yang; just go out and play basketball the way you know how to play it. That’s what’s going to make you the best version of yourself and your team the best version they can be.”

Olynyk’s teammates encourage him often (Avery Bradley and Thomas are probably the two most consistent in his ear) to be more assertive, but they recognize he tends to be hesitant far too often for a player with his skillset.

“When he’s second-guessing and … shot-faking when he should have shot, just not being the aggressive player that we need him to be … we don’t need him to be like that,” said Thomas. “We believe in him. He just has to remain confident at all times. When he’s confident and aggressive, he’s a hell of a player.”