Saying his bruised right thigh still hampers his mobility, Miami center Shaquille O'Neal returned to practice Saturday -- yet was coyly noncommittal about whether he'll be playing when the Heat open their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the New Jersey Nets.
O'Neal was injured a week ago and hadn't been on the court since. Miami coach Stan Van Gundy said he expects O'Neal, who missed the last two regular-season games, to play in Sunday's Game 1 against the Nets.
The 12-time All-Star sounded less certain.
"You've got to start off in the right way," O'Neal said. "I've never missed a playoff game, I don't think. This is the first time where I'm going in iffy-iffy."
O'Neal still is undergoing multiple treatments daily to alleviate pain and swelling in the leg. If O'Neal cannot play, then former Nets center Alonzo Mourning -- who asked out of New Jersey since he did not consider the team to be a championship contender -- is Miami's probable starter.
"Feeling pretty good. Went hard today," said O'Neal, who averaged 22.9 points and 10.4 rebounds in his first season with the Heat. "The true test is going to be how I feel when I wake up in the morning. ... I'll most likely be out there tomorrow unless I come in and I can't walk. Hopefully that's not the case."
O'Neal's health has been a big source of concern for the Heat of late. He missed 5½ of the team's final eight games, first because of a stomach virus that caused him to shed 15 pounds, then the thigh injury.