Shaquille O'Neal travels with Celtics

Boston Celtics center Shaquille O'Neal traveled with the team to Houston Thursday for the start of a three-game road trip Friday night against the Rockets.

While O'Neal might not even return to game action during this trip, it's an encouraging sign in his recovery from right foot injuries that have sidelined him since Feb. 1. According to the Celtics, the entire team made the trek, except for Jermaine O'Neal, who continues to work out on his own away from the team as he eyes a return before the end of the regular season.

With the Celtics trekking to New Orleans on Saturday, Shaquille O'Neal clearly has motivation to return to his old stomping grounds. But making his weekly appearance on Boston sports radio WEEI (850 AM) Thursday, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge noted O'Neal's activity will ramp up with the trip.

"I think about a week ago we re-evaluated and readjusted," said Ainge. "He came back [to Boston] a couple of weeks ago [after Boston's post-All-Star West Coast trip] with the hopes of playing by now, but I think there was a little bit of a setback. He's with the team on the trip just to get some shootarounds and some practice time in, but it's just day to day. He still feels a little bit of discomfort there. I think we still feel the same way, that he'll be fine, it's just a matter of when."

Ainge also expanded on O'Neal's setback, which further delayed his return.

"No, I think it was a legitimate setback," Ainge said. "He still feels some discomfort in his Achilles periodically, and so we're not going to put him out there yet. I think that it's always a question of, 'OK, you're going to have a little bit of discomfort anyway, do you need to just go play, and just get back in rhythm and play through it? Or will it completely heal and you will have no discomfort if you give it a little bit more time?' That's always the question. I'm not sure there's a perfect answer."

Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com.