NEW YORK -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers remained hesitant to offer a firm timeline on when ailing center Shaquille O'Neal might return to game action, but reiterated that he's moving closer to that goal by traveling with the team.
"I don't know the plan yet," said Rivers. "He's moving better. The fact that he's moving better, you just bring him on the road."
Pressed on what he'd need to see from O'Neal to have confidence to put him back on the court, Rivers quipped: "Make some 3's," before turning more serious.
"I don't know. Listen, he's just feeling better and he's closer. I don't know what he needs to show me. He's not ready to play yet, but he's getting closer. So the fact that he's getting closer, you bring him on the road."
In the portion of shootaround open to the media, O'Neal worked with strength and conditioning coach Bryan Doo, getting stretched out under one basket. O'Neal playfully did reverse push-up, lifting Doo up by his feet as he Boston's strength guru clung to the hoop upright.
Rivers again stressed that O'Neal simply is not ready for game action and there's no hidden game plan behind bringing him back.
"You need him when you need him; I'm not worried about that," said Rivers. "I'm more worried about getting him right and healthy. There's not strategic game plan for not playing him. There's a medical game plan for not playing him when he can't play. Once he can play, he'll play."
Rivers nodded when asked if there was still potential for O'Neal to appear in Sunday's Game 4, but O'Neal still displayed a limp while walking off the court. The 39-year-old center, limited to 5½ minutes of action since Feb. 1 with right calf and Achilles issues, wouldn't indulge a pack of reporters in health talk, but did provide a laugh when he stopped to introduce himself to a female staffer outside the visitors' locker room, saying, "Hello, Jermaine O'Neal, nice to meet you."
As for the real Jermaine O'Neal, he was sporting a hefty ice pack on his left wrist after the morning session, but said it's nothing to be concerned about.
"I wore a brace the last two days, just to protect it and make sure I didn’t open the door wrong and irritate it," said Jermaine O'Neal. "I feel fine. The swelling is down. It's one of those situations where, I took a charge and I put my hand back before I fell. It irritated [a preexisting injury] a bit. It's probably not going to have an affect on me."
Jermaine O'Neal tore cartilage in that wrist taking a charge in Toronto in the preseason. He aggravated the injury taking a charge from Amare Stoudemire in the fourth quarter of Sunday's Game 1 win, then further tweaked it at the start of Tuesday's Game 2 and needed to return to the locker room to ice the injury.
O'Neal played only 20:24 that night, including a mere seven second-half minutes, but stressed that the second-half floor time was valuable to helping restore Glen Davis' confidence and is not related to the injury.
* (For the latest on the Knicks' injuries, hop HERE).