MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Over the weekend, the Miami Heat got one of the best performances of the season out of center Greg Oden. It’s a testament to dedication that could end up with him winning an NBA championship ring just a few years after many wondered if his career was over.

It was just five months ago that Oden came to training camp after missing three years of his career due to knee injuries. Since he signed with Miami last summer, the Heat has managed Oden’s playing time, his pain, and any other issue that could hamper the big man’s game.

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As each game, quarter, and even possession goes by with Oden on the court, the former number one overall pick is gaining confidence and finding his place in the Heat’s offense. Over the weekend, he played 13 minutes and had eight points in his longest action of the season.

For the Heat, getting and keeping Oden healthy could be the great equalizer to the real threat the Indiana Pacers pose to the Heat in the playoffs. Indiana’s height and physicality advantage would be at least hampered by Oden’s presence on the floor for parts of the game.

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It would also extend Indiana’s defense as Chris Bosh would switch to his more natural position of power forward. That would allow Bosh to get outside more and help open up more lanes for Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and others to drive through.

For Oden, simply being on the court is a victory. Just a few years ago, he was considered a draft bust who couldn’t stay healthy. While he may never achieve the level of success of the player taken one spot later (Kevin Durant), his presence and work against some of the big men in the Heat’s path to a three-peat would be a great reward for the work he has put in.

The next few weeks will prove to Miami what Oden can give the team. He’ll be facing off with some of the top centers in the game including Al Jefferson, Dwight Howard, Tim Duncan, and Joakim Noah and the Heat should get a better grasp of what Oden will offer after the next two weeks.

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Miami is a legitimate threat to three-peat this season. But four knees, two belonging to Dwyane Wade and the other two belonging to Greg Oden will ultimately be some of the biggest X factors the Heat face over the next four months.