OAKLAND -- So now I fully understand what was behind Jermaine O'Neal's sly grin and the twinkle in his eye last week.
The Warriors big man, out since Dec. 9 with wrist soreness and subsequent surgery announced on his Twitter account Tuesday afternoon that he plans to return for Tuesday night's game against the Bobcats at Oracle Arena.
"8 weeks ago I was told I would probably be out for 4 months after my surgery, but with a lot of hard word and a lot of prayers I'm back," O'Neal tweeted.
O'Neal did not address the media after the team's morning shootaround but Warriors officials said he -- along with power forward David Lee -- would be listed as questionable. A half hour later, after leaving the gym, the 18th-year veteran announced his plan to return.
"So tonight I will play and hopefully the rhythm won't take long to come back," he later tweeted.
O'Neal was playing well off the bench when he left the lineup. He is averaging 6.2 points and 4.5 rebounds and shooting 48.1 percent, playing 18.6 minutes per game.
The assumption is that O'Neal has been medically cleared. In the days immediately after his Dec. 13 surgery to repair torn ligaments in his right wrist, it was indicated recovery and rehab could take up to four months.
But O'Neal, who has implied this will be his final season, quickly resumed cardio workouts and was participating in one-on-one drills -- while wearing a wrist/hand brace -- barely a month later. He has been practicing for at least two weeks.
In the minutes after the Warriors' win over the Clippers last Thursday, I asked O'Neal how close he might be to returning to the lineup. His response: "Real close."
He then paused, after which came the grin and the twinkle.
"Maybe sooner than you might think," he said.