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.
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