The Celtics are thin at all five positions right now. Crepe-paper thin. Reduced Fat Air Crisps thin. On the scientifically rigorous Bale Scale, they’ve gone from Reign of Fire to The Fighter to The Machinist.
That’s a 14.4 Bale Differential, highest in the league. So why, then, is one of their comparatively healthy players seeing a drastic reduction in his minutes?
Over the last four games, Shaq has played 13, 16, 16, and 15 minutes. In the first two against Orlando and Indiana he fouled out, but more recently against Detroit and New Orleans he finished with zero and four fouls, respectively. And in those games in particular the Celtics could have really used extra minutes from a big, with both Semih Erden and Garnett unable to play. Shaq has gone from a very unlikely All-Star candidate to a guy Doc seems reluctant to put on the floor.
Is Shaq hurting? I’ve heard no indication of that from a Boston sports media that would go cuckoo-bananas if they got a whiff of another injury. BUT he also hasn’t been playing well, pulling down only one rebound in each of the last two games, although he was 4-5 in the New Orleans loss. He basically disappeared in the Detroit game, as much as that’s feasible for an enormous human-monster. BUT injury-plagued teams need to spread minutes around, and Shaq’s as capable of eating minutes as he is eating all other things. So what’s Doc’s thinking here?
It’s possible that Doc is looking at 15-17 minutes as Shaq’s ceiling for the foreseeable future, and he’s using Jermaine O’Neal to fill the void. Jermaine’s gone for 10, 12, 23, and 33 minutes in the last four, most of them ineffective. Maybe Doc has seen what Shaq can do in 23 healthy, energized minutes, and he’s decided he wants those minutes in the playoffs, not now. If he’s willing to sit Shaq with zero fouls in close December games, I’m not sure we should expect to see much of The Big Whatever for the next couple months, even with all these 4s and 5s missing.
It could also be a temporary measure to deflab Jermaine by making him jog up and down the court a few hundred times. He could definitely use it. His arms are, like, spilling off of his shoulders. But maybe there are other ways for someone to lose weight than playing unnecessary minutes in competitive NBA games? Christian Bale, for example, ate nothing but an apple and a can of tuna every day.
If this is indicative of Doc’s precedented intention to throw the midseason in order to put together a strong playoff run, have you guys adapted to that reality yet? Were we too spoiled by all the rhetoric about trying to win every game? Even worse, are the C’s being punished for trying to win every game? Would reduced minutes and a few extra losses in the early going have led to a healthier roster by now?
Just one depressing question after another. Happy new year, I guess.