Greg Oden participated in the Miami Heat’s preseason game against the New Orleans Pelicans tonight. It was his first NBA game in 1,418 days. I didn’t think he would be able to play at all during preseason, after experiencing swelling in his left knee one week ago, but the Heat were eager to wave their free agency prize in the face of the team that nearly landed him. This could have just as easily been Oden’s debut against the Heat.
Petty NBA politics aside, Greg Oden’s presence on the court was a milestone. The Heat made sure he came back with a boom by running a play just for him when he entered the game in the 2nd quarter. His inaugural possession in a Heat jersey ended with a rim rocking dunk over Pelicans small forward, Al-Farouq Aminu. Oden’s knees may never be completely healthy, but from a conditioning standpoint, he looks strong and ready to go.
Keep in mind, that while he appears to be nearing a legitimate return, he is not yet capable of contributing for an extended period of time. In fact, a minimal period of time is still a bit too much to ask. Greg Oden played for a grand total of 3 minutes and 58 seconds in his debut, scoring 2 points and collecting 2 rebounds. The rust was apparent as he also committed 2 turnovers and 2 personal fouls. The Greg Oden that was drafted ahead of Kevin Durant only exists in “once upon a time” sentiments.
Still, it was surreal to see him play (wearing number 20 these days). I hope he can make enough of a career for himself that he leaves a legacy bigger than his failures. This is the year to do it. LeBron James and the Miami Heat have their eyes on a 3peat, and Greg Oden is along for the ride, healthy or not. Their road to history will be nationally covered at every turn, but Oden’s smaller battle for success is worth equal attention to Blazer fans that supported him through the hard times.
The Heat defeated the Pelicans, 108-95.