|Written by Michael Patrick|
Bet on the NBAWith the lack of a paint presence remaining a problem in Boston, it will be Jermaine O'Neal and not Shaquille who will have to make his mark in the opening series of the playoffs.
Someone has to contain Stoiudamire, and it looks like it is going to be O'Neal. With Shaq feeling too much pressure after five minutes of physical activity this morning, it looks as though O'Neal will have to pick up the slack for this series at a minimum.
The Celtics know the kind of presence O'Neal can possess when he is on his game. O'Neal can block shots, rebound, and defend with the best centers in the league when he is on, and this is what the Celtics are going to need to escape the Knicks, let alone make a deep run into the NBA Playoffs. Even though his role has undoubtedly been simplified in Boston, at one time he was considered one of the top big men in the league, his presence and his ability to protect the paint from the likes of Carmelo and Chauncey Billups will be needed. He is going to need to keep slashers out of the paint for the Celts.
Anything they can get from O'Neal is definitely considered extra if you are looking at things from the viewpoint of Celtic skipper Doc Rivers. Even though O'Neal was considered, at one time, to be a great offensive threat, especially when the Pacers were making their playoff runs early in the 2000's, his role is definitely much different here in 2011. However, this does not make him less important, and his surrounding cast knows this. He has also accepted this role, “Offensively, it's not my goal. I know eyebrows will be raised if I don't take a shot in a game, but that's not my goal. When I came here coach told me defensively it was going to be my job, and offensively not so much.”