By A. Sherrod Blakely
PORTLAND, Ore. As expected, Shaquille O'Neal will miss his third straight game tonight because of a sore right hip injury. But both O'Neal and coach Doc Rivers expect him to play Friday night at Phoenix.
"I'm good; I've been good," O'Neal said. "Doc told me to take it easy. I've been doing other things; hot tub, hip strengthening exercises. I should be back by Friday's game in Phoenix."
But unlike Kendrick Perkins, who recently returned to the Celtics lineup after tearing the MCL and PCL in his right knee, O'Neal's minutes won't be limited any more than they already have this season.
"We can't limit them much more," Rivers said. "Having Perk and Semih Erden, that'll help. We want to make sure Shaq keeps improving with this team as far as other stuff, but staying healthy at the same time."
Even though the Suns are one of O'Neal's former teams, Rivers was to quick to add that nothing should be read into that being his return game.
"I don't think it's about Phoenix," Rivers said. "Medically, that's when they said he should be able to play."
The Celtics will also welcome back Marquis Daniels, who was away from the team during their 112-95 win over Cleveland attending to a family matter.
Look for Erden to get the starting nod tonight, but don't be surprised if Perkins starts to eat away at Erden's minutes with the first unit during this trip.
Perkins, nearly two weeks ahead of scheduled, returned to the Celtics lineup on Tuesday.
He played more than 17 minutes, and finished with seven points and six rebounds.
"I feel good; I feel all right," Perkins said this morning prior to the C's shoot-around.
Having not played in about six months, Perkins didn't know how his body would feel afterward.
"I'm not hurting that bad," he said. "My knee, I'm sore in other places; I'm cool."
He admits he anticipated he would have some soreness in his right knee.
Needless to say, he was pleasantly surprised.
"I'm going to see how I feel after running up and down, and go from there," he said.
As far as playing time, he knows his minutes will continue to be limited.
"Whatever Doc want me to do," Perkins said. "I want to be out there."