Sure the Phoenix Suns faltered at the end of the first half, the third quarter and then for most of the fourth quarter in a 114-102 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, but there was a surprising bright spot. It came from veteran center Jermaine O'Neal, who was playing his first game since November 4.
O'Neal played 20 minutes and contributed 12 points, five rebounds and three blocked shots.
He also mixed it up with Dwight Howard, drawing a technical foul from both Howard and Jordan Hill. He attacked the hoop and played with a physicality fans had not seen yet from him this season.
Maybe it was the matchup against Howard, whom he would battle often when he was playing in the Eastern Conference, or maybe it was simply having fresh legs after several games off. In any case, getting that sort of play from the 16-year veteran on a consistent basis will be something no one thought would happen when he was signed this past offseason.
We knew that O'Neal would bring veteran leadership and mentoring for Michael Beasley. If he can be a physical force and actually contribute more than fouls and a few rebounds, then it may be the most underrated signing of the offseason for the Suns.