Boston Celtics: Jermaine O'Neal Looking Good in Returning Game

J.B. BirdContributor IIIApril 1, 2011

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 03:  Jermaine O'Neal #7 of the Boston Celtics reacts after he is called for a foul in the first half against the Minnesota Timberwolves on January 3, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Although he only played a little over 11 minutes for the Boston Celtics in last night's against the San Antonio Spurs, Jermaine O'Neal's play showed just enough to buoy the spirits of Celtics fans.

Firstly, O'Neal looked a lot slimmer than the lumbering behemoth that hit the hardwood for the Celtics earlier in the season. Apparently, he has been working out six days a week with noted trainer Tim Grover in Chicago.

The hard work seems to have paid off, as O'Neal has dropped 12 pounds since we last saw him.

Secondly, O'Neal was much quicker on the court than most would have expected. He did not appear to be favouring his injured leg at all.

Whilst he is not going to take anyone off the dribble and dunk in their face, he should at least be able to keep up with the more athletic centers that the Celtics may face in the playoffs.

Finally, O'Neal seemed comfortable within the Celtics offence. He totaled five points on 2-for-2 shooting for the night.

Perhaps more impressive, though, was the way he got them.

The first two points came off a sweet short fadeaway. The second field goal was a contested layup that saw him finish after being fouled. He iced the free throw to complete his perfect shooting for the night.

With Krstic injured and possibly out indefinitely for the Celtics, O'Neal couldn't have chosen a better time to return. The Celtics will need his size and defensive presence on the inside going forward to the playoffs.

Once Shaquille O'Neal returns, sometime next week, Jermaine should be able to act as a serviceable backup and help divide minutes with the future Hall of Famer.

So, whilst Jermaine O'Neal is not yet back to peak form, it is clear even from his first game that he will be able to play a substantive role in the Celtics' playoff run in 2011.