By Jessica Camerato
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