Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal Constitution has some insight…
I’ve been told that Atlanta wouldn’t budge on giving Shaq a starting nod over Al, who is after all still only 24-years old and an All-Star. Shaq believes he will get the starting nod over Jermaine O’Neal in Boston as Kendrick Perkins rehabs from his knee injury.
Atlanta also wasn’t willing to pay Shaq more than the minimum and that was a sticking point for him. He didn’t want to sign for the minimum when the Hawks had their bi-annual and mid-level exceptions available because of the perception that would create–as in the Hawks could have paid him more but didn’t. That’s not the case with Boston, which had neither of those exceptions and so could only give him the minimum.
The big guy still has his pride.
The Hawks were right not to give Shaq the starting nod over Al Horford, who is an up-and-coming All-Star-caliber big man.
But in the end, he probably made the right decision. The Celtics are obviously closer to a title than the Hawks are, and they were willing to pay him as much as they could, which perception-wise looks better than Atlanta giving him the minimum when they still have a couple of exceptions remaining.
Some are criticizing Shaq for not retiring, but the guy can still play a little. His PER last season was 17.92, which confirms that he’s a shadow of his former self (24.00+ from 2002-06), but that still puts him amongst the Top 15 centers on a per-minute basis.
Also, I think a move to Boston gives him a chance at a relevant end to his career. We’re more likely to see a Boston/Miami matchup in the Eastern Conference Finals than we are an Atlanta/Miami matchup, which should give Shaq the opportunity to help decide who represents the conference in the Finals.