By Jessica Camerato
BOSTON -- This summer, former teammates Shaquille O'Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas left Cleveland and went in different directions. Shaq went north to Boston, Ilgauskas flew south to Miami.
Even though the big men are on rivaled teams now, Ilgauskas enjoys the camaraderie he shared with O'Neal last season on the Cavaliers.
"He was great to me, for us. He really was," Ilgauskas told CSNNE.com before the Celtics played the Heat. "He came in every day, practiced. Me and him, we always had a good relationship. I enjoyed having him on the team. It was fun. He was good for me."
After 13 years in the NBA, Ilgauskas has never played with -- or against -- anyone like O'Neal. He's happy to have had the opportunity to share the paint with him.
"He's a freak of nature," he laughed. "You never see somebody of such size do the things that he does. He's a unique player, always has been. He's special."
In the box score, Shaquille O'Neal posted 9 points and 7 rebounds in 18 minutes. His teammates believe his contributions went beyond the stat sheet.
"He's huge for us," said Paul Pierce. "I think the numbers don't really tell you how big he is for us because I remember at one point in the game going to Ray Allen, I think it was the third quarter, we looked up and we were six minutes and in the bonus because Shaq drew about four or five fouls. We're not a team that usually gets in the bonus that early, and that's the presence that he brings. Hopefully it's going to be like that all year long, when you get into a penalty and every foul from then on you go to the free-throw line. Just having him, he's a great finisher . . . We want to take advantage of that night in and night out. I think that's where our greatest strength is, on the inside, and I'm glad to have him on our team."
Kevin Garnett simply echoed, "What he said."
As for O'Neal, he was just glad to help the Celtics come out with a W.'
"We just wanted to come out and win our first game," he said. "That's what we did. We let you all worry about the hoopla and all of that. We know that we wanted to come play a solid game and we knew if did what we wanted to do, then we could possibly get a win. Now that this game is over, we've got a game tomorrow against the Cavaliers in Cleveland and we just want to be 2-0."
Ever since he was traded to the New York Knicks last February, Eddie House has made it a point to stop by the Celtics locker room when he comes to Boston.
Make no mistake, he is on board with the Miami Heat, but that doesn't stop him from giving credit to his former team.
"I thought it was going to be a hard game," he said of Opening Night against the Celtics. "A great team over there -- obviously -- with their track record. In '08 when they came together, they've been together a long time. It shows. They are in midseason form, everything clicking. They can pretty much run their offense with their eyes closed. They are a great team, and they played great tonight."
House scored eight points off the bench for the Heat, including a pair of three-pointers. He got open looks like he did with the Celtics, but he is not into drawing comparisons between his former and current teams. Instead, he's focused on his future with the Heat.
"I think it's just two different dynamics, the way these guys play and the way that team is put together," he said. "But I'm not comparing this team to that team because we could talk until we're blue in the face about that stuff. That's not what I'm here to do. I'm here to talk about the Miami Heat and not the Celtics. We're trying to do something special here and we're trying to move forward."
Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comjcamerato