Shaq: “I’ll be back even if I have to shoot it up.”

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Shaquille O’Neal traveled with the team to Houston, with hopes of playing a game on the three-game trip.

HOUSTON — Shaquille O’Neal joined the Celtics for the road trip that begins tonight in Houston, and vowed at this morning’s shootaround to return this season “even if I have to shoot it up.” He will practice with the team and hopes to play in one of the three games on the trip.

O’Neal has been out since Feb. 4 with an inflamed right Achilles tendon. The Celtics originally expected him to miss two weeks, and return after the all-star break. But two weeks turned to 18 straight games.


“You get nervous? Yeah, a little bit,” O’Neal said. “But [coach] Doc [Rivers] and [trainer] Eddie [Lacerte] are very good about saying take your time in coming back. It’s getting real close. So like I said, I’m going to practice here in the next couple days and see if I can get back.”

Once he returns, he’ll have to rediscover the rhythm he had with the second unit. He’s averaging 9 points and five rebounds in 21 minutes this season.

“I’ve got to get reacquainted with the offense and step it up,” O’Neal said. “Hopefully we can get a little practice, maybe a game in to see where I’m really at.”

With just 16 games remaining, O’Neal knows time’s ticking.

“Pressure? No,” he said. “Pressure’s when you don’t know where your next meal’s coming from. So, I feel the same way I’ve felt the last 20 years.”

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