Shaquille O’Neal’s job in Cleveland this season is of two parts. Number one, his experience in winning multiple championships is huge to a team of young players who have never won anything in college or the NBA.
Shaq must also play defense well. This is apparent when guarding Cleveland’s eastern conference rival the Orlando Magic. Last year’s conference finals saw Cleveland get completely destroyed by Dwight Howard. He was too strong and athletic for any Cleveland defender. With Shaq, the Cavs have more muscle and defensive intelligence to throw at Dwight.
In Shaq’s absence normally center Zyndrunas Ilgauskas would step in, but Big Z was traded to the Wizards at this year’s trade deadline in the deal sending Antwan Jamison to the Cavaliers. Big Z can re-sign with Cleveland after being bought out by the Wizards, but cannot sign for another 20+ days.
Once again for the Cavaliers, the pressure on LeBron James to do more is apparent. However, the sudden re-emergence of guard Mo WIlliams, as well as new forward Antwan Jamison will help King James’ quest to finish atop the eastern conference. Shaq expects to be back for the playoffs, and with the lead the Cavs have in the east, they will be fine without him in the standings, but not with on-court team chemistry.