Greg Oden and the Miami Heat agreed a two-year veteran minimum contract on Friday, as reported by the Miami Herald, among many other sources. The deal has a player option, which gives Oden the choice to return or opt out after the second year. The maligned center had been out of the league roughly two years due to debilitating knee injuries. Drafted number 1 overall in the 2007 NBA Draft, Oden has played in only 82 games in a four year span for the Portland Trail Blazers. Oden reached the decision after meeting with several teams over the past week.
It has been a long road to an NBA return for Oden. Ironically enough, his next to last game was a performance against the Heat in which Oden had 20 rebounds. However, he was injured in the next game, which led to his prolonged absence. Oden has had five total surgeries on his right knee and has insisted that he is not yet 100 percent. An anonymous source told USA Today that Oden was much further along in conditioning and agility exercises but was limited in on-court basketball drills. Oden describes himself as “a work in progress.”
Oden has reportedly dealt with depression and alcohol abuse issues while out of the NBA. The former Ohio State standout says he was excited that the two-time defending champs would even display the amount of interest that they did. Oden told ESPN that he had a conversation with Heat coach Erik Spolestra after the workout that increased the likelihood that he would sign with them. The pressure and spotlight on Oden would be next to none, which was a factor in Oden’s choice. Oden also said that Miami told him he “wouldn’t be needed as much” early in the season.
The big man showed flashes of production in his time in Portland. In 61 games, Oden averaged 8.9 points and 7 rebounds a game in the 2008-09 season. He started the 2009-10 season off strong as well, averaging 11.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game before going down after 21 games.