When Jermaine O’Neal went from perennial All-Star to banged-up veteran, there were many times when his daughter, Asjia, saddled up next to his ailing body on the couch just as she does when he is healthy.

Whether it was the persistent knee or wrist problems, Jermaine was comforted by Asjia. She stretched into a 13-year-old seventh grader who could put an arm around her father and say, “It’s going to be OK.”

Now, it is Jermaine’s turn to be at her side.

Asjia was right. At 34, Jermaine is OK. He returned to being as healthy as he has been since his last All-Star season five years ago. He looks like a quality center again, averaging 12.1 points and 9.8 rebounds over the past eight games. But in a season that began with him nearly retiring following an aunt’s death, Jermaine must step away temporarily for his daughter.

Asjia will undergo surgery to repair a leaky heart valve Wednesday in Boston. O’Neal already feels guilty that he will miss her pre-operation hospital routine while he has one last Suns practice Tuesday. He told his teammates that he will miss three games but his return will be up to his daughter, just as she and his son, Jermaine Jr., will decide whether he returns for an 18th season next year. O’Neal said Suns interim head coach Lindsey Hunter asked him about playing two more seasons.

“All-Star,” Hunter said of the last time he recalls seeing O’Neal man the post like he has lately. “He’s asked to do a lot in the little time that he plays and he does more.”

O’Neal nearly did not find out how much he had left. He grumbled about training camp, his health and his role early in the season. His aunt died in November, two weeks after he had forgotten to respond to her text message. When he returned home to South Carolina for the funeral, his grandmother’s failing health nearly sent him to retirement after a career of $167million in earnings.

“It was close,” O’Neal said. “I wasn’t playing this year for money. I just wanted to come in, enjoy basketball and try to help these young guys. I felt selfish, like, ‘What am I doing? I have the money I have, the businesses I have, the family. Why am I still running around trying to play basketball?’”