Jermaine O'Neal ready for return vs. Spurs

SAN ANTONIO -- Celtics reserve center Jermaine O'Neal experienced no unusual overnight swelling in his surgically repaired left knee and is ready to return to game action Thursday night against the Spurs.

O'Neal, sidelined since Jan. 12 and limited to 17 games so far this season due to left knee ailments, admitted he had normal soreness after going through a lengthy offday practice session in San Antonio on Wednesday -- his first since rejoining the team on Monday in Indiana -- and he's excited to get back on the floor with his teammates.

"You're in there banging, the body is going to be a little sore," O'Neal said of his first practice. "But I feel pretty good... I'm just happy to be back. We'll take it day to day, do the maintenance... and keep [the knee] strong."

Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who initially expressed skepticism on whether O'Neal could get back on the court Thursday, reversed his course after Wednesday's session.

"He looked good and he feels better," said Rivers. "He had a good day yesterday."

O'Neal said he hadn't discussed a game plan with Rivers as far as minutes, but expects them to be low on his first game back, especially on the first night of a back-to-back (Boston travels to Atlanta Friday). O'Neal did say that, if the knee feels good, he's not against playing extended minutes, but will let the body (and coaching staff) dictate that.

Rivers thinks just having O'Neal back in uniform will give his team a spark.

"I think getting any guy back helps," said Rivers. "Especially a guy with size, that always helps. And I think it helps guys mentally."

In other injury news, Von Wafer, sidelined since March 4 with a sprained right calf, went through a full practice session Wednesday and could also be back on the floor as early as Thursday's game.

"He's close," said Rivers. "He may even dress tonight."

If that's the case, the Celtics would have a very rare situation where they would need to scratch a healthy body (likely rookie Avery Bradley) in order to add O'Neal and Wafer to the 12-man active lineup. For Rivers, that's a fine problem to have this time of year.