Shaq move is deemed failure
MIAMI — The Celtics traded Kendrick Perkins because they were convinced Shaquille O’Neal could be a more-than-adequate replacement at center and the team would flourish offensively.
That move backfired as O’Neal was limited to 37 regular-season games and two in the postseason. His sore right Achilles’ tendon and foot flared up after a brief appearance in Game 4, and yesterday served as a time of reflection on O’Neal’s storied career.
Coach Doc Rivers acknowledged the Shaq experiment was a failure. The organization unwisely depended on a 39-year-old who had played nearly 50,000 minutes. The Celtics never had a healthy presence in the middle and their lack of interior defense was a primary reason why they were eliminated by the Heat, 97-87, last night in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Celtics were 33-10 before Perkins returned from a knee injury and the club was banking on that success in the second half of the season. O’Neal was unable to even step on the court for all but one regular-season game after Feb. 1. And in that April 3 appearance against Detroit, he strained his right calf.
O’Neal has a player option for $1.399 million next season, a sum he could probably earn with a couple of endorsements. So, the Celtics may have seen the last of the Big Shamrock.
“Yeah [it’s been a failure], it’s just nothing he can do and it’s not like he’s not trying,’’ Rivers said before the game. “I told our team that [Tuesday]. He’s done everything you possibly can do to get healthy and unfortunately for him, he just hasn’t been able to do it. When he was originally injured, no one even thought it was that serious. I think I said it’s not even a big deal, he would be back in four or five days. It just never healed. It still hasn’t and every time he plays it gets worse.’’
Asked if O’Neal would retire, Rivers said: “I don’t know. I think it’s too early to even talk about it right now. I’ve learned personally that you never try to make any decision in the heat of the battle. Emotionally you are always going to make the wrong choice. I just know this has been emotionally draining for him, more than you guys would know. He feels awful. This is why he came here, to get to the playoffs.’’
Return men? Jeff Green seemed to become more comfortable with the Celtics just as their run was coming to an end. Now Green, a restricted free agent, will have to wait and see if his career path will lead to him to another team.
Green joined the Celtics via a trade with Oklahoma City and acknowledged some of his biggest challenges joining a team so late involved picking up a new system. He said he has not talked with team president Danny Ainge, but he would like to return to Boston.
“It’s a great place,’’ said Green, who scored 9 points last night but made two costly turnovers. “It’s a dream to play with guys I looked up to growing up and to have had this opportunity was fun.’’
Nenad Krstic got off to such a positive start in Boston in February, but then became an afterthought. He did, however, have his best game of the playoffs with 8 points and two rebounds last night. The free agent said he would like to remain a Celtic.
“I know my role changed and I didn’t get as much playing time, but I like the guys and I like the system,’’ said Krstic. “Whatever I can do to help the team, I will. I haven’t talked to my agent or anything, but I would like to come back.’’
One and done This is expected to be the lone season in Boston for assistant coach Lawrence Frank, who is a candidate for the Houston and Golden State head coaching jobs. Frank has interviewed with the Rockets while the Warriors have included him in their pool of candidates . . . Rajon Rondo played 30 minutes last night but contributed just three assists. In 68 minutes since dislocating his left elbow, Rondo produced eight assists . . . Paul Pierce played in his 110th postseason game, passing Dennis Johnson and Bob Cousy for 10th on the franchise’s all-time list . . . With a roster spot open, the Celtics activated Troy Murphy and kept Carlos Arroyo on the active roster. O’Neal, Avery Bradley, and Sasha Pavlovic were inactive.