Erik Spoelstra tiptoed around the latest questions about center Greg Oden before Monday’s game against the Jazz, but the Heat’s coach did at least indicate that Oden is still in the team’s long-term plans for the season.
The Heat plays the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night in the biggest home game of the first two months of the season, and the topic of Oden and his playing status (or lack thereof) will once again be a point of discussion.
Last week, Oden watched from the bench in Indianapolis as Pacers center Roy Hibbert dominated the paint both offensively and defensively. After the game, Hibbert said he was looking forward to Oden joining the rivalry.
But exactly when Oden will begin playing games for the Heat remains a mystery. He made an appearance in the preseason but hasn’t suited up for a regular-season game. Oden, who was in street clothes against the Jazz, has been inactive for the first 24 games of the season.
As a follow up to a question about his rotations, Spoelstra was asked about how to efficiently incorporate Oden into the Heat’s system once he is ready to play.
“We’ll get to that when we get to that,” Spoelstra said. “It will be no different than when we had to incorporate Michael [ Beasley], when we’ve had to incorporate Shane [ Battier]. We incorporated Norris [ Cole]. When we get to that point, we’ll deal with it the way we always do.”
Spoelstra was then asked whether he thought adding Oden midstream would be the biggest challenge of the season.
“You can’t ever pinpoint what the biggest challenge will be in an NBA season, really,” Spoelstra said. “They come daily, they come weekly because of the schedule, but they will arrive on your doorstep.”
Oden hasn’t played in regular-season game in more than four years.
Beasley missed his fifth consecutive game with a hamstring injury, but Spoelstra said his reserve forward is “making progress every single day.”
According to Spoelstra, Beasley woke up before the Heat’s game against Minnesota on Dec. 7 with a strained hamstring. He hasn’t played since.
“I just walked by the weight room right now, and he was doing more work in there and he was doing work after shootaround [Monday],” Spoelstra said. “I like where he is getting. He isn’t there yet but he is getting closer.”
Spoelstra added that the Heat’s trainers would not clear Beasley for a return to action until he passes specific physical tests.
The Heat’s players exchanged gifts Sunday, and Beasley presented Roger Mason Jr. with a commissioned piece of pop art from a Lincoln Road gallery. Mason’s nickname is “Money Mase,” and the present was an American flag made of dollar bills.
“He knew I liked art, so the thing was to get something where it’s something you know about your teammate and something your teammate likes,” Mason said. “It was very thoughtful.”
Heat forward LeBron James said the gift exchange had a few other rules. Specifically, there was a monetary minimum for gifts. Most players wouldn’t say what they purchased or received.
“It was a pretty reasonable minimum, and some people went to the minimum and some people went above,” guard Dwyane Wade said.