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Jermaine O'Neal eyes return to practice in two weeks

Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff  December 5, 2010 12:56 PM

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After missing nearly a month resting his sore left knee, Jermaine O’Neal intends to continue individual workouts for the next week and hopes to return to practice the week after.

O’Neal, who hasn’t played since Nov. 8 in Dallas, was in Boston this week doing non-basketball workouts. He was fitted for a knee brace and said he’s been spending time getting acquainted with the feel of it.

He’s missed 13 games already this season, more than he had all last year, but the Celtics aren’t rushing him back.

Having just found out that Rajon Rondo would sit out his fourth game of the season with a sore left hamstring, coach Doc Rivers said O’Neal’s status was the least of his concerns.

“I just want him to get on the court with us, that’s more important,” Rivers said. “We’re just going to be patient.”

Having rushed back from injuries in the past, O’Neal accepted the luxury of being able to take his time in this instance.

“I think our staff has done a good job of saying, ‘Hey, there’s a bigger picture here. We want to play you March, April, May, June and not really compromise our season.”

O’Neal traveled with the team to New Jersey, but said he doesn’t intend to make any of the trips later in the week when the Celtics head to Philadelphia and Charlotte. Instead, he said he will continue working in Waltham and see if he can be cleared for practice at the end of the week.

“The toughest part for me on this particular one was the disconnect from the team,” O’Neal said. “As a player if you’re not playing, then you don’t really feel as a part as you want to feel. You can be there, you can watch, you can do anything you want to do, but not being on the court is what I miss the most. At the same time it’s felt very good to me that I didn’t have to be rushed back out there.”

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