After setting the record straight on Lawrence Frank earlier today, Danny Ainge may a somewhat surprising revelation to The Boston Herald earlier today, by indicating Jermaine O’Neal is inching close a return, perhaps as early as next week.
“It could be next week, which is about what we hoped for – the end of the month,” said Ainge. “He looks good. I watched him go through his workouts.”
The most encouraging news, according to Ainge, is that O’Neal has been able to work out for approximately three weeks without swelling. In addition to working out with a trainer, the center has been playing 1-ob-1 basketball.
“That’s always the challenge,” said Ainge. “He’s been working out for that long without swelling, which is a big consideration.”
O’Neal also lost approximately 12 pounds during his rehabilitation.
Ainge said that O’Neal may join the team when it begins a road trip this weekend with back-to-back games in Indiana and Minnesota, though it’s unlikely he would play in either game.
But the trip continues with games in San Antonio (March 31) and Atlanta (April 1) – possible targets for an O’Neal return. He would also get some practice time, considering that there is a two-day gap between the games in Indiana and San Antonio.
Ainge watched O’Neal in Chicago earlier today, where the center has spent the majority of his time rehabbing over the past month. Startling news for what has been a huge bust signing thus far. As last year showed, all (if not most) will be forgiven if Jermaine can be a useful commodity come playoff time. This latest news from Ainge firsthand proves that he will at least have a shot in that department before the season finishes up.
In the meantime ask yourself this: would you have ever dreamed Jermaine would be back before Shaq?