The last time Greg Oden played significant minutes in an NBA game, he dominated — coincidentally enough — the Heat, collecting 13 points, 20 rebounds, four blocks, two assists and a steal in 30 minutes.
That was Dec. 1, 2009. Oden played four minutes in a game five nights later — his last NBA appearance until he makes his expected Heat debut this season.
If Oden, in meaningful games next season, can deliver even half of what he contributed against Miami that night in Portland, Ore., the Heat would be thrilled.
But Oden still needs more time to get healthy, and that’s fine with the Heat, which has no plans to rush him after Miami agreed Friday night to a two-year deal with the 7-foot center.
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“I’m not going to sit here and say I’m 100 percent,” Oden, who has had five knee operations, told ESPN late Friday. “I am moving [well] and I am feeling good, but I have a lot of work to do. I could be ready to go [for the Oct.29 opener] but it’s still a work in progress. My minutes and amount of playing time [are] going to have to be monitored.”
Oden said he felt comfortable when he spoke to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra at an Indianapolis Chili’s following his workout last week.
“When I had a conversation with Coach Spoelstra and hearing how much he knew about the training stuff that I was already doing, it kind of made me feel like they know what’s best for me,” he said. “For them to come after me with all the stuff I’ve been going through — for them to think I can still be an important piece of their team — I’m really excited about that. The scrutiny … that’s going to be there with any team I signed with.”
In a Grantland.com interview with his former Ohio State teammate, Mark Titus, Oden added: “Obviously, the chance to play with the best player in the world and compete for a championship was a big selling point. But more than that, what I really liked was how they thought I could really add something to their team. They’ve won back-to-back championships without me, so for them to pursue me as hard as they did meant a lot, especially given all that I’ve gone through.”
He cracked that “the cool thing about playing for the Heat is when you’re LeBron’s teammate and you screw up, nobody gets mad at you for missing a shot or turning the ball over. They get mad at LeBron for passing to you in the first place.”
Oden reportedly has battled depression and alcoholism in recent years. “The past six years have been tough for me,” he told Grantland. “But there’s nothing I can do about it now. All I’m focused on is right now. And right now I feel great. … I want to be able to finish the season healthy.
“… There’s a lot to be excited about in joining the NBA champions, getting to play with some great players, and living in Miami. But honestly, the thing I’m most excited about is just being able to play basketball again. It’s been a long and challenging road back, so just having the chance to play the game I love again has me more excited than anything else.”