PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (CBSMiami) – It’s tough to be out of the spotlight when you’re seven-feet tall, but Miami Heat center Greg Oden has been out of the basketball world for several years and he’s itching to get back on the court.
But, while he’s mentally ready to bang with the centers in the league, the Heat are taking a very slow approach with him hoping to keep him healthy for when the team needs him the most, the playoffs.
“It’s step-by-step, practice-by-practice, minute-by-minute,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He was able to do about a half-hour of the work (Tuesday), the majority of it non-contact.”
Oden watched from the sidelines with large icepacks strapped to his knees after taking part in the first quarter of practice. For some players that might be bad, but for Oden, who’s battled more injuries than any player should, it’s progress.
“That was a big bonus,” Spoelstra said of Oden being on the floor. “We’ll move on from here and see what the next step will be.”
For the Heat, Oden’s role on the team is low-risk, high-reward. If Oden can give the Heat 12-15 minutes a game, especially in the playoffs; he’s well-worth the investment. If he can’t and he goes down with another injury, the Heat has won two straight championships without a true center.
“I’m getting my step back,” Oden said after the initial practice. “But I’m happy to be out there and be around this atmosphere with the guys.”
Oden has reportedly lost upwards of 40 pounds to make his comeback with the Heat. His on-court workouts in Miami before training camp lasted about 30-35 minutes and while he is eager to get back on the court and show the NBA that he still has plenty left in the tank, he’s willing to do it slowly.
“We’re just going to keep going, do a little bit by a little bit and go from there,” Oden said. “They’ve got the best plan for me to get better.”
And if opposing coaches think game-planning for the Heat is a nightmare right now, imagine if Oden does get better and gives Miami a seven-foot scoring and rebounding post presence. It might make the Heat truly unstoppable.
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