After working out for a third straight day with his new team before Wednesday night's game against Golden State, O'Neal said he wanted to make sure his injured hip was completely healed and that he knew enough of the offense before playing his first game with the Suns.
He said we wouldn't play Thursday at home against Dallas but hoped to play soon after this weekend's All-Star break. The Suns open play after the break next Wednesday against the Los Angeles Lakers, one of O'Neal's former teams.
"The hip feels pretty good," O'Neal said. "I have to get the wind up a little bit more and get in tune with what's going on. You want to fit in. You want to be a piece of the puzzle that fits in. You don't want to be a piece of the puzzle that's too small or too big. You want to just slide right in like I've been here for a while."
O'Neal injured his hip diving for a loose ball against Utah on Dec. 22. He returned Jan. 16 but was sidelined again five days later. An MRI showed inflammation in the left hip, shutting him down from all basketball activity.
He's pleased with the progress he's made this week.
"I've gone through three tough days of moving, jumping, banging and the hip feels pretty solid," he said. "One or two more days of working out on my own and then I'll be able to come back very, very shortly. I have orders from upstairs not to come back until I'm 1000 percent.
Led by two-time MVP Steve Nash, the Suns (36-15) entered the day with the best record in the Western Conference. O'Neal is trying to fit in with Phoenix's up-tempo offense after playing most of his career with teams that emphasized post play inside.
"I've been watching a lot of tape of this team. They're a real solid crew," O'Neal said. "I'm just now learning the plays. We went over them today. I have like eight to 10 plays memorized. Now I have to keep going over them in my head to develop that brain muscle memory so when I'm out there on the court I can feel comfortable playing."