Jermaine O'Neal returns

SAN ANTONIO -- Boston Celtics reserve center Jermaine O'Neal experienced no unusual overnight swelling in his surgically repaired left knee after a hard practice on Wednesday and returned to game action Thursday night against the Spurs for the Celtics' 107-97 win.

O'Neal, sidelined since Jan. 12 and limited to 17 games so far this season due to left knee ailments, admitted he had normal soreness after going through a lengthy off-day practice session in San Antonio on Wednesday -- his first since rejoining the team on Monday in Indiana -- and he was excited to get back on the floor with his teammates.

"You're in there banging, the body is going to be a little sore," O'Neal said of his first practice. "But I feel pretty good... I'm just happy to be back. We'll take it day to day, do the maintenance ... and keep [the knee] strong."

Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who initially expressed skepticism on whether O'Neal could get back on the court Thursday, reversed his course after Wednesday's session.

"He looked good and he feels better," said Rivers on Thursday morning. "He had a good day yesterday."

O'Neal said he hadn't discussed a game plan with Rivers as far as minutes but expected them to be low in his first game back, especially on the first night of a back-to-back (Boston travels to Atlanta on Friday). He ended up playing 11 minutes.

Rivers thinks just having O'Neal back in uniform will give his team a spark.

"I think getting any guy back helps," said Rivers. "Especially a guy with size, that always helps. And I think it helps guys mentally."

In other injury news, Von Wafer, sidelined since March 4 with a sprained right calf, went through a full practice session Wednesday and was back on the floor for Thursday's game.

Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com.