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NBA / May 10, 2010 / 6:02 pm

Shaq needs to be playing more

Shaquille O'Neal (photo. Chenoa Maxwell)

Last summer, when the Phoenix Suns didn’t want him anymore but he still had something left in the tank, Shaquille O’Neal was picked up by the Cleveland Cavaliers and paid $20 million to do two things: Help them beat Dwight Howard, and help them beat the Lakers’ big man combo of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.

As the playoffs whittle down to the elite of the elite, the other parties are taking care of their end of the arrangement: The Magic are one win away from a potential Eastern Conference Finals matchup with the Cavs, while the Lakers are one win away from the Western Conference Finals and on-track to make a return trip to the NBA Finals. But Shaq and the Cavs still have to handle their business in order for the Diesel investment to begin to pay off.

Tied 2-2 with the Celtics in the conference semis, the Cavs have to figure out Boston before thinking about Orlando or L.A. In yesterday’s Game 4 loss, Shaq put up 17 points, six rebounds and two blocks — his best postseason performance to date with Cleveland — but he played less than a minute in the fourth quarter before picking up his fifth foul and sitting on the bench the rest of the game. In today’s Akron Beacon Journal, how Shaq was (or wasn’t) used down the stretch was discussed:

”Shaq played extremely well and I think it’s kind of surprising that we didn’t see him back on the floor the entire fourth quarter,” LeBron James said after the 97-87 loss.

Indeed, O’Neal proved effective offensively, but in other ways, as well. Early in the game, he was responsible for drawing fouls from Celtics defenders, a fact that put them in trouble and put him at the line 11 times in the game.

But his absence in the fourth gave point guard Rajon Rondo, who was already having a game that will be emblazoned in Celtics lore, the space he needed to continue his torrid pace. With the middle freed up, the Celtics became much more active.

”They definitely turned it around after that point,” James said. ”They were able to get some stops, get some run outs. [Glen Davis] was able to get a few layups. Tony Allen was able to get a layup or two, and they were able to go up by 10 really fast.”

It also sent the Cavs scratching and clawing to get back into the game, which at one point they did.

Apparently O’Neal asked to come back into the game but never got the chance. He did not speak to the media after the game.

Cavs coach Mike Brown wasn’t asked about O’Neal during his short postgame news conference.

Boston’s big men effectively shut down Miami’s front line in the first round, but even at his age, Shaq is a different kind of monster. Switching up the game plan entirely and running the offense through Shaq isn’t the way to go, but in those games where LeBron’s right elbow is clearly bothering him, it’s not a bad temporary fix.

Cleveland’s problems in this series are more of a defensive naure, anyway, and that’s why they got Shaq in the first place. Kendrick Perkins and Big Baby aren’t scorers Shaq needs to worry about, but keeping him on the court and out of foul trouble to help slow down Rondo is key. Otherwise, we’ll never know if Shaq would have helped LeBron get over the best teams standing in the way of a Cavs championship.

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  • LakeShow84

    Ummmmm didnt i see Rondo SIDESTEP Shaq for a easy layup??

    Safe to say he wouldve fouled out had he come back in..

    BUT where was the LEGENDARY superstar who imposes his will on the opponent?? We’ve seen many moments before from said LEGENDARY players.. where was Clevelands??

    Why is it everyone elses fault??

    There is damn near nothing in the paint when you play Boston.. You have to make it happen on the perimeter.. that will OPEN up the middle..

    You seriously think Shaq can come out and give you those same #’s?? i thought a couple of the calls were wishy washy to begin with..

    Keep reaching.. Its either Mike Brown, Mo Williams, Shaq or the role players.. never the man with no heart.. he seemed content with bullying his way into the paint and flexing on 3 point plays.. Too bad he couldnt get that done in the final 2 minutes..

  • JH

    I hope Duncan doesn’t let his game slide to the degree Shaq has. It was painful enough to watch Timmy D this year…I can’t imagine him playing after his current contract ends.

  • KB24

    That Elbow excuse again?

  • Rizwan

    @ LakeShow84

    I’m guessing your not a fan then! The entire blame cannot be on LeBron though. I do agree that he needs to step up to carry his team and at times he becomes too passive and that rubs off on the team.

    However, the role players make the team. Look at the Suns. I’m a massive fan but without the role players, that series with the Spurs is alive today.

    The problem is not LeBron’s performance on the court (in terms of his numbers) but his demeanour on the bench. Starts with that showboating when they’re winning. I dont think he is that leader yet. The best player isnt always the leader people expect him to be.

    I’ll give you a great example that not many will know about. In Cricket, the best players in a team are historically the worse leaders. A prime example is Brian Lara. FANTASTIC player but awful leader. I think LeBron fits that mold.

  • sh!tfaced

    Analysis of the Obvious:

    Cavs have so many weapons, arguably the deepest, most versatile lineup in the league. That bench is loaded, at least 2-deep in every position with a good mix of youth and experience. Etc, etc. Their front office did a excellent job building a damn good winning team.

    If they don’t reach the finals, it won’t be because they needed another player, lacked star power behind LeBron or his elbow for that matter. Their downfall will be coaching because their head coach is still an average one at best.

  • LakeShow84

    @ Rizwan

    I can feel that but look at yesterdays game between your squad and SA..

    You 2 were neck and neck in the 4th until?? Nash came back and lit them up..

    Your SUPERSTAR player dominates the 4th cuz hes SUPPOSED to.. Same with Timmay, he tried, he failed but Spurs.. you may be able to get away with it OCCASIONALLY but this is the playoffs against a heated rivaleven when the Cavs clawed back into it Lebron was content with passing..

    And if your superstar dont recongize that moment as his then you got problems ya dig..

  • westside certified

    Yes, the Suns didn’t want his ass anymore. And look at where they are now…Western Conference Finals. Shaq was a great player but now he’s just a liability.

  • K Dizzle

    Aw man, this gon be some good drama goin into tomorrow. Cavs are strugglin, Shaq asks to get back in and Mike Brown denies him…..Cavs lose. Afterwards, Celts players say they don’t know why Shaq was held out when he was cloggin up those Rondo drivin lanes…

  • dapro

    Shaq was also a factor (negatively) in pick and roll situations

    If the Celts put both Sheed and KG in the lineup, who can Shaq cover?

    I never thought it was a smart pick up in the first place. Why would they sign a player to match up against teams that runs the pick and roll and moves the ball so well..i.e Boston, Magic, LA

    Alot of the blame does fall on Lebron. GMs fall in love with the combination of skills but he’s still hasn’t shown the ability to dominate a series night in and night out

  • egypt

    i dont understand what lebron needs to do at this point…. just no idea… some people just want to blame anything that goes wrong in cleveland on him.

    Have you seen his numbers? He is balanced… dude scores 39 points and hands out 8 dimes as a sf…. is that not good enough anymore??

    some haters need to define the term dominate…. cuz if that doesnt describe lebron then id love to know who falls under that category…

  • M Intellect

    The Cavs need to trade someone for a Big-Shot, 4th QTR killer like Ben Gordon, Jamal Crawford, Manu Ginobili or some shit so LeBravatar has a legitimate 2nd scoring option in the 4th and can go back into his shell when it gets on top. Ginobili would actually be perfect.

  • http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/703154723/the-soulchorea-project?pos=1 Kermit The Washington

    @ M Intellect:

    The person you’re describing is supposed to BE Lebron. The Cavs have every possible weapon you could want. They got the inside presence. They got the sharp-shooting role-players. They got the solid bench. They got the experience. They supposedly have the superstar 4th quarter killer as well. So saying “the Cavs need X” is simply asking too much. They have everything needed to succeed except the fact that Bron can only take over in the 4th if he’s “hot”; if his jumper’s falling. If it’s not, then he doesn’t know what to do.

  • JAY

    #5 nailed it and it’s the answer to #10.
    #10 doesn’t understand what else LBJ needs to do. #5 references Mike Brown as being a mediocre coach. In other words, LBJ is doing everything he can but the team as a whole looks lost offensively and I put the blame squarely on Mike Brown. It’s apparent to me that he has no idea how to draw up plays. I’m tired of Cavs fans saying LBJ doesn’t have anyone on his team. Mo’ Will was a 20+ scorer with the Bucks. Parker, Shaq, Varejao, Jamison, Z are all intelligent players. Hickson could be a beast if used properly. The problem is Mike Brown can’t coach. LBJ made coaching easy in the regular season. As everyone knows, it’s different in the playoffs and Coach Brown is being exposed.

  • http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/703154723/the-soulchorea-project?pos=1 Kermit The Washington

    @ JAY:

    Bron’s not doing EVERYTHING he can. He didn’t attack in game 4 like he did in game 3.

  • JAY

    @Kermit
    I concede your argument for that one game but you can’t honestly say Coach Brown is a good coach. The team barely runs any sets on the offensive end. Not just in the playoffs… i’m talking about all the time. That’s not Lebron’s fault. I don’t even like Lebron so it hurts me to say that. I can pick holes in Lebron’s game with the biggest of haters but let’s get real. When I see teams getting into the half court and have no sets to run, there’s only one person to blame. The coach. He’s horrible. It’s not like they’re running a set and the set breaks down due to the Celtic defense. They don’t even start a frikkin set. When have you ever seen Mo or Lebron look in Mike Brown’s direction to get a play? It doesn’t happen. His whole offense is, get the ball to Lebron and we’ll see what he can do.

  • ron ron

    @jay
    I agree with you totally .. if you remember back to Cavs and Magic 09 during timeouts Mike would not even be in the huddle discussing schemes…I think the head coach for the piston now was their Offensive coordinator…Mike Brown really doesn’t understand how to create mismatches with his line-ups and plays…I personally would go big on the celtics in a few strecthes throughout the game

    LBJ-1
    AP-2
    Moon-3
    Hickson-4
    AV-5

    With this line-up Rondo may have to guard a bigger player in the post maybe causing some double teams and possibly could get him a few early fouls and some open looks around the perimeter