Shaquille O’Neal Could Be Done

This could be it for one of the most dominant players in NBA history. At the very least, it’s looking like it’ll be it for the rest of this season. While attempting to come back from a troublesome calf injury this weekend, Shaquille O’Neal played just 12 restricted minutes, and was barely able to get up and down the court. Now, it sounds like unless the Celtics extend their season not just beyond tonight, but into the next round, Shaq will sit it out.

Tom Haberstroh of ESPN’s Heat Index tweeted that Boston coach Doc Rivers doubts Shaq will play tonight. Rivers feels bad for O’Neal and says the big man can’t do much more than he has to try to play. Every time he plays, the injury just gets worse.

Now the larger question: is this it for the 39-year-old center? He has a player option to stick around next year for $1.4 million. But he might take this season, which pretty much ended in January, as a precautionary tale. Things figure to only get worse. At the same time, Boston could always used his size and presence up front, especially for that money figure.

Interestingly, his former teammates LeBron James and Dwyane Wade both talked about the big fella with the Boston Herald like he was already done.

James, who at one point lapsed into the past tense when talking about his former Cavs teammate, said, “As big as Shaq is, if you saw him as a complete stranger, you wouldn’t be afraid to go up and talk to him. It’s unfortunate when you reach a point in your career where you have injuries.”

Wade, who had a reportedly stormy end to his friendship with Shaq after they parted company following Miami’s 2006 NBA title, nonetheless was respectful today.

“He set the blueprint for guys like Dwight Howard,” said the Miami guard. “He’s a legend, a living legend. Nothing takes away from Shaquille O’Neal.”

Rivers went on at length about O’Neal, admitting at one point through no one’s fault, the Shaquille O’Neal project never bore fruit for the Celtics.

“Yeah, there’s nothing he can do,” said the Celtics coach. “It’s not like he’s not trying. I told our team that yesterday. He’s done everything he 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 wasn’t that big a deal – he’d be back in four or five days. It just never healed, it still hasn’t, and now every time he plays it gets worse. There’s nothing you can do about it, and we haven’t really.”

This must be terribly frustrating for Shaq. He came here for the playoffs, wanted to have one last shot at Kobe and the Lakers before riding off into the sunset. For him to not be able to contribute during Boston’s most desperate hour must be eating at him.

Rivers didn’t want to address the future with Shaq. It always seemed like Shaq would come back for the final year of his contract so the vets in Boston could really give it a go. But now that he can barely run the floor, there’s some doubt. Hopefully, the four minutes in played in Game 4 are not the last we see of O’Neal.

Do you expect to see Shaq again this postseason?

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