This wasn’t exactly the defensive play heard ’round the world.
But if altering the shot of a four-time NBA MVP is indicative of the type of effort the Heat could get out of Greg Oden this season, then Monday was a significant practice day.
Oden, a talented yet oft-injured center who has not played an NBA game since Dec. 9, 2009, was acquired by the Heat as a free agent on Aug. 7, signing a one-year contract.
He has yet to play an exhibition game this preseason, but he did scrimmage with Miami on Monday, going up against the MVP, LeBron James.
“He scored on me twice, and I made him miss once,” Oden said of James. “He got the upper hand [Monday], but it felt good to be out there.
“I’m a little frustrated with myself because I’m not as back as I want to be, but it’s little steps. [Monday] was another step doing a five-on-five [scrimmage].”
James said it would have been “very tough” for him to go four years without being healthy enough to play basketball, which is what Oden, 25, has endured since 2009.
“For him to be able to stick with it and be here today is a testament to him and his family believing in him,” James said. “He’s back where he belongs, and that’s in the NBA.”
James talked about competing with Oden in Monday’s practice and also had some detailed memories of when they used to match up on rival teams.
“We went five on five [Monday], and he fouled me twice, and I scored on him,” said James, whose recollection of Monday’s events varied slightly from Oden’s version.
“He blocked my shot a few times when he was in Portland and I was in Cleveland. He got me real good. But my team usually won the game.”
For now, Oden said blocked shots or other stats don’t matter.
“The main goal is to wake up [Tuesday] and make sure the swelling’s down,” he said.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Oden is “making progress” health-wise and added that all 20 of his players will travel to Tuesday’s game at the Washington Wizards.
Don’t count on seeing Oden in the game, however.
“I would love to,” he said. “But we’re taking it slow, so probably not.”
Dwyane Wade, the Heat’s star guard, said he was one of Oden’s teammates during Monday’s scrimmage.
“I had a good experience [playing with Oden],” Wade said of the 7-footer, who was the first overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. “For a guy who hasn’t played for a while, he still understands what makes him great — a sense of being big and aggressive.”
Wade stressed that because the two-time defending NBA champion Heat has so much talent, Oden will have the luxury of coming back at his own pace.
“Instead of worrying about ourselves and our team, we’re worried about him and making sure he can play at the level he wants to play at,” Wade said. “When he feels, and the coaching staff and trainers feel, comfortable with [his knee], then we will accept him with open arms.”