He took part in his first Suns practice Monday, and first practice anywhere in almost a month. And while Shaquille O’Neal said he was happy with the progress of his injured hip, his conditioning may keep him on the sidelines until the team returns from the All-Star break next week.
“It was terrible. I’m not going to sit here and tell you otherwise,” said O’Neal, who hasn’t played since Jan. 21 and hadn’t been on a practice floor until Sunday.
“I haven’t done anything in a month, but I’m in pretty good shape. It’ll probably take me a few more days … the good thing about these guys here is they tell me when I’m comfortable, when I’m at 100 percent, I can join them.”
The final decision is still pending, but O’Neal has all but ruled out Wednesday’s game against Golden State in Oakland, Calif.. And any appearance in Thursday’s home game against Dallas — Phoenix’s last before taking a six-day break that includes All-Star weekend — would likely be a cameo.
“He looked good,” Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I think it’s going to be a little bit. There’s an adjustment for him and for our guys and everybody. He’s in better physical shape than we even thought, but it’s going to be a little bit of time.
“It’s hard to think and play basketball at the same time and right now there is a lot to take in. It’s not like a perimeter player who just kind of fits in. He changes a little bit the way we play and he’s a big focal point. It’s a process we’ll go through.”
O’Neal said he wanted to get his wind up to 75-80 percent and wasn’t going to rush back to the detriment of the team or himself.
“This (team) is already a fine-tuned machine,” he said. “Any little negative kink could throw it off. I don’t want to be the negative kink … I have to make sure everything’s right.”
O’Neal — looking trim and fit — was able to run the floor and finish some plays with dunks. He said he did feel some pain in his hip, although it has decreased rapidly after several sessions with the Suns training staff. He said he is working out on his own twice a day at a local fitness club.
“I feel good, better than I’ve felt in awhile,” he said. “(The Phoenix trainers) have done stuff that I’ve never seen before and it seems to be working. I’m used to getting injections and then going back out there.”
O’Neal described his first taste of Suns basketball as intense.
“It’s good to have great players around you,” he said. “I’m no idiot. I’m not gonna do something to try to take over. I’m going to be very nice, rebound and outlet to Steve (Nash) and get easy buckets.”
But if many in the organization have their way that might not happen until the Suns meet the rival Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 20. Teammate Grant Hill offered some friendly advice as the two drove to practice.
“He’s like a rookie at the draft right now and he’s ready to get out there and go. But the thing I want to caution him as a teammate — don’t just throw yourself out there because you’re caught up in the moment. I’ve make the same mistake in the past. When you think you’re right, wait a week.”
It took Hill several weeks of summer practices and a full training camp to adjust to his new team and faster-paced style, but he predicted a faster learning curve for the newest Sun.
“I’m not Superman,” O’Neal said. “Superman can do amazing things. I’m more like Batman, I need my utility belt.”