Greg Oden, Miami Heat Agree to Deal
By Tim Reynolds
MIAMI — Greg Oden still needs some time to get ready for the rigors of playing in the NBA. He no longer needs a new team, however.
The former No. 1 overall draft pick has chosen to sign with the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat, ending months of suspense over where the center whose career has been decimated by a series of knee problems would be attempting his comeback. The Heat were long perceived as the frontrunners to land Oden, and now have a 7-footer to help them try for a third straight title.
Mike Conley Sr., one of Oden’s agents, said that the former Portland center accepted an offer worth about $1 million for this coming season and would have a player option for 2014-15.
“He just thought that it was the best fit for him, where he’s at and especially for how it relates to him coming back,” Conley said. “He can be on a winning team and be working his way in slowly.”
“I think a 7-footer can help any team,” Heat point guard Mario Chalmers said. “They’re hard to find. I’ve known Greg since our high school days, talked to him a couple of times about this and you just hope for the best.”
Oden told ESPN.com that he still has “a lot of work to do.”
And during their recruiting process, the Heat were obviously cognizant of that. Oden has not played in the NBA since fracturing his kneecap in a game on Dec. 5, 2009, but the Heat surely will not expect him to play big minutes right away, given that they are bringing back most of the rotation that won the last two league titles and will almost certainly be favored to win a third next season.
Oden is the second No. 1 pick on the Heat roster, joining LeBron James, the top overall draft selection in 2003 – and someone who developed quite an affinity for Oden’s game when the center was at Ohio State. Oden wound up leaving college after one season, then was taken by Portland at the top of the 2007 draft.
It was a spectacular failure, thanks to an array of injuries. Oden played in just 82 games – the equivalent of one full NBA season – during his four-plus years in the Blazers’ organization, averaging 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks on 58 percent shooting.