Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there's nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
But his Celtics bosses and teammates see through the figures. Or maybe they see other stats beyond the traditional. Yes, O’Neal had just four points and one rebound against the Spurs Wednesday, but in a game the Celts won by two points, the club was a plus-7 with him on the floor.
“I think he’s playing fine,” said general manager Danny Ainge. “We’re producing when he’s playing. That’s the big thing.
“It’s hard to look at an individual’s numbers. You have to look at the bigger picture. When a guy’s on the court, what is a team doing. And the team’s playing really well when he’s out there.”
With Tim Duncan and Matt Bonner running around, the Celts weren’t expecting Wednesday to be O’Neal’s night.
“He’s always effective,” said Doc Rivers. “It’s just that some games — like San Antonio — are going to be tough nights for him because they have two shooting bigs.
“The problem there is you want to keep him low, but both bigs are popping. It makes it tough for him, but he’s been great.”
Shaq has his limitations… that much is obvious. He's a monster who can't move around very well, but who still have serviceable skills. He's got enough of those skills left that the other team can't leave him. And that means all of us who said he'd clog the middle because he can't move were wrong… he's doing the opposite.
It's almost as if he's so big out there, he's created his own gravitational pull… and it's sucking other defenders into his orbit and clearing a lane for the other guys to get to the hole.
Everyone to a man is praising Shaq for his ability to open things up. Almost makes you wonder how things will change when Perk returns. I've always advocated that Perk get his starting job back when he gets back to full strength. But the argument can be made that there's no use in rocking the boat when it's going smoothly. Shaq will only play the first 5 minutes anyway and Perk will probably be finishing games if he's not starting them…
… so… I guess as we get closer to Perk's return in the next few weeks, we'll start to hear more about how Perk and Shaq will be used. I think a solid argument can be made either way.
On Page 2: The latest round of All Star voting
Rondo is the team's top vote-getter thus far at 929,781 votes, followed by Garnett (850,687), O'Neal (506,621), Allen (494,489), and Pierce (465,270).
Based on last week's returns, here's how the players fared in this week's balloting: Rondo 152,471 votes; Garnett 138,132; O'Neal 95,958; Allen 102,048; and Pierce 83,922.
* Forwards: LeBron James (Mia) 1,194,091; Kevin Garnett (Bos) 850,687; Amar’e Stoudemire (NYK) 826,628; Paul Pierce (Bos) 465,270; Chris Bosh (Mia) 334,921; Josh Smith (Atl) 225,951; Carlos Boozer (Chi) 222,431; Danilo Gallinari (NYK) 168,519; Danny Granger (Ind) 158,836; Andre Iguodala (Phi) 150,840.
* Guards: Dwyane Wade (Mia) 1,167,649; Rajon Rondo (Bos) 929,781; Derrick Rose (Chi) 917,753; Ray Allen (Bos) 494,489; John Wall (Was) 212,238; Gilbert Arenas (Orl) 193,056; Brandon Jennings (Mil) 172,076; Raymond Felton (NYK) 144,707; Jamal Crawford (Atl) 123,531, Joe Johnson (Atl) 119,455.
* Centers: Dwight Howard (Orl) 1,205,159; Shaquille O'Neal (Bos) 506,621; Joakim Noah (Chi) 197,407; Andrew Bogut (Mil) 159,560; Al Horford (Atl) 149,908; Roy Hibbert (Ind) 133,416; Andrea Bargnani (Tor) 126,185; Brook Lopez (NJ) 104,784; JaVale McGee (Was) 82,650; Ben Wallace (Det) 61,051.
There's often something to get worked up about with the All Star voting… but I have a hard time arguing this year. Rondo and Rose are neck-and-neck… as are KG and Amar'e. Some people might get worked up about Shaq getting votes… but he's at least playing and being productive… as opposed to TMac and Iverson getting votes last year while not even playing.
By the way, follow that link for the West voting. Aside from Yao leading the center race, it's about right as well.
Go here to vote or text your vote's last name to 69622.
Related Links: WEEI: KG, Rondo hold narrow All Star lead
The rest of the links:
ESPN Boston: The Mailbag: Within Reach | WEEI: Power rankings | Doc on D&C: 'Saw improvement' on Rondo's elbow jumper | Ainge: "one of the best games Rondo's ever played" | Globe: Jermaine O'Neal OK with new role | CSNNE: Celtics rookies adjust to uncertainty of playing time | Celtics content with roster despite injuries | MWDN: Davis has perfect timing