SAN ANTONIO — Initially hesitant to throw Jermaine O’Neal back into action so quickly, Celtics coach Doc Rivers is ready to possibly play O’Neal tomorrow night against the Spurs after seeing the 32-year-old big man run successfully through his first practice since arthroscopic knee surgery in January.
“I’m going to play tomorrow,” O’Neal said. “We talked a little bit about me playing back-to-back games. Obviously, it’s sensitive, but I told them the plan is to play back-to-back games, the plan is to play as many minutes as I can without limitation.”
Rivers joked, “I’m going to start him. Play him 40 minutes.”
The Celtics practiced for 2 1/2 hours today at the AT&T Center.
“I thought his quickness and his activity [were surprising],” Rivers said. “He didn’t surprise me where he didn’t pick up some stuff. I don’t blame him for that, but I was happy. I was very happy with it.”
Over his two month absence, O’Neal had been working out with Tim Grover in Chicago, and Rivers said O’Neal’s conditioning was solid. “I think he came out one time in practice,” the coach said.
Rivers said he’ll let O’Neal’s wind dictate how much he plays.
“I think his lungs will be a good limitation for him,” Rivers said. “He’ll get tired quickly tomorrow.”