Waiting on Shaq

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Waiting on Shaq

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

Charlie Sheen wants us all to love violently, and fortunately (as to not upset his fragile genius), the concept isnt too far from the norm for a Boston sports fan.

Maybe Bostons unable to love quite as violently as Sheen, but in terms of what regular, not-so-special humans are capable of, Bostons right up there with the best. When it comes to violently loving professional sports, no one can hold a candle.

And were modest, too.

Bostons a place where failures never tolerated. As an athlete, it doesnt matter if youre too old, too young, injured, out of place or out of shape. If you underperform, you hear it. You get picked on. You become the inspiration for so many sports talk tirades. Of course, if youre successful in Boston, life will never be better. Youll walk around town like the President only your secret service would be two drunk guys in matching Danny Woodhead jerseys. Or like Sheen walking around Sober Valley Ranch only if the goddesses were those same two drunk guys.

But if you come up short around here, it can be brutal. Just ask guys like Eric Gagne, or Dennis Wideman or Adalius Thomas. Youll be ridiculed, tormented, or . . .

Or sometimes . . . just ignored?

So far, thats whats happened with Shaquille ONeal.

Four months into the season, and hes barely been a factor. Hes shown glimpses of what he can do, but still hasnt proven he can do it for an extended period of time. In the meantime, hes amassed an unbelievable collection of injuries and to this point weve chosen to ignore them, or at least resisted labeling them with any sort of significance.

On one hand, you can understand why.

For one, because the injuries are inevitable. However optimistic you wanted to be at the start of this season, it was guaranteed that Shaq was going to miss significant time with this, that or any number of injuries. Why? Well, hes unbelievably old. Not just a little old. Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett are little old, and proving that old isnt always a negative trait. Shaq was a "little old" in Miami. Now hes the oldest; literally the oldest player in the league.

You dont see many 39-year olds in the NBA. Of those who make it that long, very few start as early as Shaq and almost none can boast that kind of odometer reading. Only 16 guys in NBA history have logged more minutes than ONeal (one of them is KG), and of those 16, none (no, not even you, John Stockton) can match Shaqs sheer size (not just height, but size).

What hes done in terms of longevity is really impressive, but its not without legitimate consequences. And for Shaq, that leaves him with a body that isnt primed for extended NBA battle. But we knew that coming in, so it's not much of a surprise. What are you supposed to say now? Hey, remember how we knew Shaq could get hurt a bunch this regular season? Well . . . it happened! Wanna talk about it?

While the predictability of Shaqs string of injuries is one factor in his undermentioned, underwhelming season, another is the uncertainty of the future.

Basically, the fact that if Shaq can somehow get it together in time for the playoffs and help the Celtics win just 16 more games, then none of these injuries matter. Nothing will matter except for the fact that Shaq came to Boston and somehow did enough to help bring them a title. At that point, the hip, the knee, the calf, the Achilles, the foot and everything else that pops up between now and then will mean nothing. All the time we spent almost talking about them will mean less.

No matter how frustrated you want to get with Shaq for these injuries, you cant help but feel like until the playoffs start, its useless to even care. That's why they brought him here. That when we can judge him (and every other personnel move from the past year). At that point, if he comes through, well look back at early March and think, Ha! Remember all the whining we did when Shaq decided to hibernate for the winter? Well look back and laugh at everything from the last few months. That was just Shaq being Shaq! Goofing around and missing games; showing up more on TV and Twitter than he does on the court. This was his plan all along! He knew hed be fine. They knew hed be fine."

But who knows?

Yesterday afternoon, after A. Sherrod Blakely broke the news that Shaq is, once again, out indefinitely, I wasnt sure how to react. It was only natural to get frustrated, maybe a little concerned. Especially with Kendrick Perkins and Semih Erden playing elsewhere, with Jermaine ONeal no guarantee to be back, and with Troy Murphy still shooting a cool .000 for his Celtics career. The playoffs are six weeks away and the Celtics are still looking to get the right bodies on the court and finally start shaping themselves for the playoffs. And Shaq needs be a part of that.

But for now, he's not and he won't be. And amazingly, Boston still doesn't seem panicked. For some reason with Shaq, they're able to put aside that violent love for their team that's resulted in so many underachieving and injury-prone players turning into public enemies, and hold out hope.

In that sense, maybe Shaq's off-the-court persona helps him. Maybe the fact that he means so much, and undoubtedly gives so much of his time to the community, and is one of the more lovable and jovial personalities in sports makes him a guy that fans want to root for. It makes it very difficult for a lot of fans to even stay mad at him. And maybe that works. Hes such a unique guy. Theres never been an athlete who's taken over Boston like Shaq in such a short amount of time. And there probably never will be. So maybe its fitting that hes been given this treatment. For all he's done, maybe he deserves it.

But if it were any other players, under any other circumstances, that violent love would have started to boil. And Charlie Sheen's the only one who'd be gaining any kind of satisfaction.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Ainge: 'This offseason is bigger' than others for Celtics

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Ainge: 'This offseason is bigger' than others for Celtics

WALTHAM, Mass. – There was very little sizzle in the moves made by Boston during last season, one in which they were hoping would be a summer full of basketball fireworks.

Well the bar is once again set relatively high for the Celtics this offseason, one in which the chances of making an impact, fireworks-worthy deal appear to be even better now than they were a year ago.

The Celtics have Brooklyn’s first-round pick in next month’s draft that has a 15.6 percent chance of being the top overall selection, and will be no worse than the sixth overall pick.

That’s just the first of eight picks for the Celtics in next month’s draft.

Boston has the potential to shed enough salary to offer a pair of near-max contracts to free agents this summer.

“We look forward to every offseason,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations. “This offseason is bigger. My expectations are high this offseason. And yet I also know that it takes good fortune.”

There’s the NBA draft lottery later this month.

“We need some ping-pong balls to bounce our way, give us the best opportunity,” Ainge said.

The Celtics own Brooklyn’s first-round pick courtesy of the Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce trade with Brooklyn in 2013. That pick will be no worse than the sixth overall selection this season but has a 15.6 percent chance of being the top overall selection.

“Whether we use that pick, trade that pick and … in free agency we have opportunities. That’s all we have,” Ainge said. “We have no guarantees of great things happening. We have a lot of hope. We have a lot of work ahead of us. We have to have Plan A through Z; usually it’s A through G.”

Olynyk still mulling over options regarding shoulder

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Olynyk still mulling over options regarding shoulder

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Boston Celtics should know soon as to whether Kelly Olynyk will have surgery on his right shoulder which limited his effectiveness this past regular season and for most of the Boston’s postseason.

“Kelly is still deciding what to do with our medical staff, with the opinions he’s received,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operation. We should know in the next week or so. Surgery is an option; it is being discussed. But he’ll make that decision soon.”

The 7-foot Olynyk initially suffered a right shoulder injury on Feb. 10 against the Los Angeles Clippers in what was the last game before the all-star break.

Olynyk remained limited due to the injury which led to him missing 12 regular season games. He re-aggravated the injury in Game 1 of their first round series against the Atlanta Hawks.

In addition to the 12 regular season games missed due to the injury, Olynyk found himself on the bench for a pair of games during the Hawks series.

Prior to Game 6, Olynyk spoke with CSNNE.com about how much better he was feeling leading into that game compared to previous ones.

But that good vibe did not translate into on-the-court success as Olynyk was scoreless while missing both of his field goal attempts in just over five minutes.

This past season, Olynyk averaged 10 points and 4.1 rebounds while shooting 40.5 percent on 3s.  But during the six-game series with Atlanta, Olynyk scored just two points on 1-for-9 shooting.

Ainge was much more definitive on the health status of Avery Bradley (hamstring) and Jae Crowder (foot).

Bradley’s hamstring injury should be healed in plenty of time for the start of training camp and will not require any offseason surgery.

Crowder, whom Ainge said suffered from a bone bruise in his foot, should also be good to go for training camp next fall and like Bradley, will not require any offseason surgery.

Ainge reserving judgment on 'young kids' until workouts

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Ainge reserving judgment on 'young kids' until workouts

WALTHAM, Mass. – When it comes to the top of this year’s draft board, there’s a lot of uncertainty as to how good any of the teens pegged to go 1-2-3 will be in the NBA.

While the Boston Celtics and most NBA teams have done their due diligence when it comes to scouting the top prospects, there’s a very good chance the player they see in the coming weeks will be in some ways different than the player they followed this past season in college or overseas.

LSU’s Ben Simmons and Duke’s Brandan Ingram are expected to be the top two picks after spending one season in college. The number 3 pick at this point looks like Croatian-born Dragan Bender who is the youngest player in the draft (he turns 19 in November).

“There’s a lot of change that happens between now and the draft, versus the college season and March to the draft,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations. “Especially with the young kids. There will be a lot of young kids at the top of the draft.”

In addition to the top three picks likely being teenagers, fellow 19-and-under players like Cal’s Jaylen Brown and Kentucky’s Jamal Murray who each left after their freshman years in college are also expected to fly off the draft boards within the top 10 picks.

Because of their youth and potential, there will be talk about what they can do at the next level in time.

But the calls as to what they still have to work on will be just as loud.

Ainge prefers to focus on what they can do and potentially how that translates at the next level.

“We tend to be more critical of kids and say they’re not this or not that and we see them two years later in the all-star game,” Ainge said. “I’ll reserve judgement on that now and look forward to the opportunity to meeting the kids at the top of the draft.”

As part of the Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce trade in 2013, the Celtics will receive Brooklyn’s first round pick in next month’s NBA draft that will be no worse than the No. 6 pick in the draft but could potentially be the top overall selection.

Boston will consider an assortment of options with the pick from Brooklyn, such as keeping it, trading it away as part of a package for a proven all-star caliber player, or potentially moving down in the draft and acquiring even more assets (read: draft picks) for a later date.

Regardless of what the Celtics do, there’s a growing sense that they are trying to fast-track things as to get back into the hunt among the elite teams sooner rather than later.

“There’s plenty of urgency to try and do what works, like our Plan A, Plan B and Plan C,” Ainge said. “But you really have to be careful what you do with those assets. It doesn’t do any good to put a noose around our neck and say there’s all this urgency. Brad (Stevens) wants to win, Isaiah (Thomas) wants to win … we all want to win and we all want to be contenders.”