O'Neal likely to play

MIKE GANTER

, Last Updated: 1:33 PM ET

Jermaine O'Neal wasn't ready to make any bold predictions, but all signs point toward a return to the court tonight after a two-game absence.

"We'll see how it goes (today at shootaround)," O'Neal said. "I expected to play (Friday) night but didn't play so I don't want to lead people on. I think it's a huge positive I was able to practise today so I would definitely say the chances of me playing are far greater than not."

Head coach Sam Mitchell said he would let O'Neal and his training staff decide when it's time for O'Neal to make his return.

O'Neal initially strained his left knee last Friday against New Jersey. He then went over on an ankle which lead to more discomfort and some swelling.

SAM TALKS ABOUT PRACTICE

With no apologies to Allen Iverson, Sam Mitchell believes the biggest difference in his team from the first two games of the just completed four-game homestand to the last two was practice.

"I just think we got a chance to practice, a chance to get back to the basics and remind guys, drill things back into them," Mitchell said.

PROFESSIONALS ONLY

Practice was winding down yesterday as the players made their final free throws before heading to the bus and an awaiting plane that would take them to L.A. when an interesting competition began at one end of the gym. Bosh, Anthony Parker and assistant coach Jay Triano were trying to see whether it was possible or not to bank a shot off the 24-second shot clock directly above the backboard and sink a basket. For a while there it looked impossible until brainy Bosh figured out that the shot clock had some give to it and if you shot it with enough force it would bend back. Sure enough Bosh was the first and only of the trio to make one.


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