Phoenix Suns center Jermaine O’Neal has missed the last seven games with an irregular heartbeat, but the 17-year veteran is set to make his return to the hardwood.
“I felt pretty good, conditioning-wise,” O’Neal said following Monday’s practice at US Airways Center. “Obviously I’m not where I want to be, but a lot better than I thought I would be. I felt strong.”
O’Neal hasn’t played since the Suns’ loss at home to Milwaukee on January 17 — which also happened to be Alvin Gentry’s last game as head coach. But the 34-year-old center will be back in uniform Tuesday night when the Suns visit the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Suns limp into the game with a 16-32 record on the season — the second-worst mark in the Western Conference. In O’Neal’s absence the team posted a 3-4 mark, and he’s looking forward to helping the improvement the Suns have shown since Lindsey Hunter took over the head coaching reins.
“We’ve got to play it out and in the process of playing it out, we’ve got to show our fan base that we’re committed to being better,” he said.
Tuesday’s game against the Grizzlies opens a tough three-game road trip for Phoenix, who has been dreadful away from home this season, posting a 4-20 record. Only the Washington Wizards (3-21) have been worse on the road this season.
“Obviously you have to win your games at home, but the teams with winning records on the road are the teams that are playing in May and June for the ultimate goal,” O’Neal said.