Baby steps for O'Neal

MIKE GANTER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 2:59 PM ET

Jermaine O'Neal took the first step in what he hopes is a quick return to Raptor productivity on Friday in Indianapolis.

O'Neal, who missed nine games with a bruised knee that swelled up after a four-hour flight from the west coast, played 17 minutes on Friday against the Pacers. O'Neal's shooting touch was off but he felt, all things considered, pretty good following such a long layoff.

"Obviously, I knew offensively it would take a little bit of time, so I just tried to rebound, block some shots and not try to do too much," he said.

O'Neal said it was mostly his touch around the basket that wasn't there for him during his first night back.

"He was OK running up and down the floor as far as conditioning," head coach Jay Triano said. "He rebounded well, he tracked the ball, but it's just his shot was a little short and he didn't have that bounce in his legs, which is completely understandable."

With four games in the next six days, Triano feels he can gradually increase O'Neal's minutes and hopefully get his game back to where it was before he took that knock on his knee on Dec. 20 at Golden State.

NASH SOLDIERS ON

The Suns, who were upset by Minnesota on Friday night, did not participate in a shootaround in Toronto yesterday, but that doesn't mean they didn't have things to attend to last night.

Steve Nash, a veteran of 99 games for the Canadian national basketball program hosted an evening in support of the Steve Nash Foundation's initiative with Athletes in Africa, bringing programming to war-affected children in northern Uganda.

Triano, the former head coach of the senior men's national team, also was in attendance.


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