It looks like the Boston Celtics’ starting center against the Miami Heat on Tuesday night will be Shaquille O’Neal. The Boston vs. Miami game will open the 2010-11 NBA season and, according to ESPN, Celtics coach Doc Rivers plans to have Shaq in the starting lineup. It had been assumed that Shaq would be getting the start, especially with Jermaine O’Neal hobbled during the preseason, but Rivers would never go as far as outlining that decision as being official. It’s probably just a coaching tactic to not allow the Heat to know anything before the tip off on Tuesday night.
The decision to start Shaq against the Miami Heat is a pretty good one, especially because he can clog up the middle against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Wade didn’t see very many minutes in the preseason, but everyone expects him to be back and healthy for the first game of the regular season. With so much on the line with this one game, it will be important for both teams to put their best foot forward on Tuesday.
Boston and Miami and two of the three Eastern Conference teams expected to take the best records (in the East) into the 2011 Playoffs. The third team is the Orlando Magic, but Orlando has somehow slipped under the radar with all of the commotion between these two teams. Boston is the defending Eastern Conference champion, and now Miami is looking to take that throne away from them. The expectation is that one of these teams will play the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.
There is a long and grueling season ahead, and this is just Game 1 of 82 regular season games for each team. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot of significance with the game Tuesday, and it is one of the main reasons that the NBA put this on the schedule. They made the smart decision to showcase two of the beasts in the Eastern Conference, and TNT should benefit from some great ratings. We will find out right away how the chemistry is working out in Miami, as well as if Shaq and Jermaine O’Neal are going to improve this Celtics team.
Last season for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Shaq averaged 12 points and 6.7 rebounds per game in his 53 games. If he can put up numbers like that for Boston this season, he will be considered a steal for just under two million in salary.
Tip off for the Miami vs. Boston game is at 4:30 p.m. PT (7:30 p.m. ET) in Boston, with live broadcast on TNT all night.