Greg Oden will resume his NBA career as a welcomed member of the Miami Heat.
The No. 1 pick from the 2007 NBA Draft, who has been out of the league since a Dec. 5, 2009 appearance with the Portland Trail Blazers, agreed to terms with the two-time defending champions on Friday, 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 their coveted 7-footer to help them try for a third straight title. Oden has agreed to a one-year deal worth approximately $1 million.
Those who watched Oden during his one season at Ohio State need no reminder of what he’s capable of when healthy. His NBA career, limited to just 82 games over five seasons, has been far less substantive. But he has nonetheless dominated in his short bursts.
Through the first 21 games of the 2009-10 season, Oden’s most recent in the NBA, he averaged 22.3 points, 17.0 rebounds, and 4.6 blocks per 48 minutes while shooting 61% from the field, including a 13-point, 20-rebound, 4-block performance against Miami in his last full NBA game. He was looking very much like the game-changing talent he was supposed to be. He got into foul trouble a little more than he should have, but he showed enough flashes of brilliance in his modest playing time to convince most NBA observers that he was well on his way to living up to the burden of being a first overall draft pick.
That’s exactly the sort of production the Heat covets at the center position.
Oden wasn’t courted by the Heat because they wanted something more than the back-to-back championships to rub in everyone’s faces. They signed him because they need a center. They signed him because of Joakim Noah, Roy Hibbert, Brook Lopez, Marc Gasol, Dwight Howard, and Tim Duncan. They signed him because Chris Bosh is too frail and Udonis Haslem is too short. Oden has legitimate value.
Of course, even the most optimistic Oden fans will concede that the Heat are not getting the former Greg Oden. His past accomplishments hold little predictive value for his return to the court more than three years later. His injury history is unprecedented for a pro athlete.
Maybe it has just been a series of highly unfortunate events, connected to each other in a way that a small change – whether it be to his gait, to his weight, or whatever else – can fix. Or maybe they’re interconnected, the continued failings of a body that just can’t cope with the stresses professional basketball places upon it, dating back to a broken hip in his childhood and continuing indefinitely through a kinetic chain of side effects.
Most believe it’s the former. But if it’s the latter, the rest of the league is in serious trouble. Read more…