At a news conference Saturday in Indianapolis, Greg Oden’s physical therapist, Ralph Reiff, said the center is “in full basketball mode” now. “There’s no more rehab. He will be a basketball player on Monday.”
Oden, 25, will fly to Miami at 6 a.m. Monday and immediately begin on-court work with the Heat, plus agility drills and more.
“My knee’s good,” he said. “I’m able to walk, jump, run. ... It’s been a while. It’s been a long road. ... I got an old body. My body is not going to be what it was when I was 18. When I was 18, I was able to run all day and jump over people. I can’t do that now. It’s just not going to happen. But I’m going to play as hard as I can and I’m going to try to jump over people and I’m going to try to run all day. If my body lets me, I’ll do it.”
He added: “My body is going to do what it can. If somehow it says no, then it says no. But I’m not even worried about that. I’m just going to go play and not even think about it.... I’m beyond excited. It’s been such a long road.... I know it’s going to be a long process.”
Though he is taking a significant step, his agent said Friday it remains unclear when he will play in a game and it could be months into the season, depending on the decision of the Heat staff. Oden has spoken of playing in short intervals initially whenever he does return but has been non-committal about whether he will play opening night, Oct. 29 against the Bulls.
“It’s still weird for me to say I’m a Miami Heat,” Oden said. “If LeBron [James] decides to get another ring, I get one now, too. Why would I not want to play with the champs?”
He said James texted with “Oden come here” messages before he signed, and a “be ready to work” message after he signed.
Oden said watching NBA TV motivated him to return to the court.