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Yes, it’s only an exhibition game. And yes, it took him until the penultimate exhibition game of the Miami Heat’s preseason run, but Greg Oden has made it back onto an NBA court. The Heat center and top overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft came in for a short stretch midway through the second quarter of Miami’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans, immediately managing to down a two-handed dunk over Pelicans forward Al-Farouq Aminu. Take a look:
"I'm happy my first shot was a dunk and I made it," Oden told Sun Sports' Jason Jackson following the game. "I'm happy to play another day."
Though the exhibition climate doesn’t technically count, this is Oden’s first NBA appearance since December 2009, and the return was a warming one – with the Heat bench cheering not only his entrance into the game, but the dunk you saw above.
Not only is this Oden’s first on-court appearance in nearly four years, he’s played just 82 NBA contests since being drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers in June 2007, sitting with myriad knee injuries, including two debilitating microfracture surgeries on top of all manner of off-court problems. Oden, who was clearly and understandably out of shape, was reported to be kept on a short leash during training camp because of his left knee swelling as he attempted one final comeback.
Heat owner Micky Arison, in a tweet that he might look fondly upon should Oden string out a spate of healthy play between now and June, offered this salutation via Twitter:
Welcome back G.O.
— Micky Arison (@MickyArison) October 24, 2013
Oden’s best defensive sequence came with 2:53 left in the second quarter when he altered the shots of Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday one moment and then immediately forced New Orleans forward Anthony Davis into a difficult shot attempt after a rebound and put-back attempt. Oden then forced a jump ball on the play.
Oden missed a pair of free throws with 2:15 left in the second quarter before checking for Battier with 1:16 left in the period.
Though Greg's return to action has been long-awaited, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra did well to somewhat bury his opening comeback pangs in an exhibition game pitched up against Game 1 of the World Series, far away from the national TV cameras. His entrance took NBA followers by surprise, as Oden was not available to the media on Wednesday prior to the game. This low-pressure cameo was probably exactly what both Oden's pride and recovering knees called for.
Oden finished the 108-95 Heat win with two points, two rebounds and two fouls in 3:58 of action.
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