By Jenda Hrbek
There's one particular thought that comes into my mind every time I think Celtics. What the hell is going to happen with Jermaine O'Neal?
He hasn't shown much so far aside from a bunch of highlights-worthy blocks in the preseason before vanishing with injuries later on. What will be his role on this team when Perk gets healthy?
Even now the competition for playing time is very tough at his position. We all see that The Big Shamrock is doing great with the Celtics starters. Shaq's playing his best basketball in three or four years even though he's limited to some 25 minutes a game. He's shooting 69% from the field - the best he ever has. The expected growth of performances by Glen "Don't call me Baby" Davis comes at the best possible time and he delivers as good as anyone. It's not just Karl who thinks he's the 6th man of the year so far.
Semih Erden has had a great rookie season for the last draft pick. He logs in for roughly 11 minutes that allow the others to catch their breath and his impact, while still quite inconsistent in his first year, is visible. There you have the three guys rotating at the Center position so far. When (if) Jermaine gets healthy, we'll probably often see Big Baby with him on the floor. His minutes shouldn't really hurt anyone specifically and if Shaq's performances stays consistent and if he stays healthy, I'd expect JO to come off the bench.
The situation changes drastically with Perk's return. Now, as everyone knows, Perk is about to return in great shape, as an improved FT shooter and very, very hungry. Plus if he keeps that musqueteer facial hair, he's going to scare guys like Andrew Bynum to death. When he returns, one of the three guys loses the spot in the rotation. With Doc the natural thing is to expect the rookies to lose their position. That would mean JO in and Semih out of the rotation for the majority of the games. I'd personally love to see some upset. JO still has a chance to make up for his perpetuous injuries but he has to show some agression. Otherwise he'll just become TLC v2.0, no switch included.