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It's not particularly controversial these days to say that Greg Oden's basketball career is in a state of flux, in the sense that no one would be surprised if he never plays again. He has a lot to prove, first and foremost that he can stay healthy. And it's likely that, if any team signs him to a contract this summer, he won't be in their plans as a main part of the rotation. Oden will have to show that he can be a part of those plans.
Oden, for his part, seems to understand his peculiar situation. However, that doesn't mean he's not aiming high. In fact, his agent says he wants to play for the Miami Heat. From Barry Jackson for the Miami Herald (via PBT):
There's a 24-year-old free agent center who's affordable, has impressive career rebounding averages and has interest in playing for the Heat eventually once he recovers from his latest knee surgery, according to his agent. The only problem? It's a very big one: He's not healthy and can't seem to stay healthy.
Greg Oden, 7-0, hasn't played since 2009-10 and is recovering from his fifth knee surgery in five seasons. A Grantland.com story said that "right now" Oden's plan is to take next season off to rehab, then come back in 2013-14. But his agent, Mike Conley Sr., told us Oden is positioned be ready to play in December or January "as far as being effective and in shape" and will explore options in the coming months, with the possibility of joining a team next season. But nobody obviously can know for sure when he will be ready.
The Heat hasn't called but "Greg has talked about Miami," Conley said. "He has interest. He's not retiring." Oden, the No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft, has played just 82 career games for Portland (which released him in March) and averaged 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks.
Whether the Heat takes a flyer on Oden or not — and Miami has nothing to lose, really, if or when they ever deem him healthy - the bigger question is this: With limited financial resources, can Pat Riley significantly upgrade at center during the Big Three era?
If Oden can stay healthy, the Heat would be a great fit: They could use a solid defensive center, and he wouldn't be asked to do much more than rebound, protect the rim, and catch passes for dunks and lay-ins. Whether or not he's ready to play is another question, and an agent's estimate of his recovery time is obviously going to be more positive than other takes. But it wouldn't be the worst move for Miami.
What's more notable is that Oden is trying to go to one of the league's best teams rather than broadcasting how much he just wants to have a job. It's typically bad to look too desperate in these situations, but middling free agents also need to know their situations. If Oden isn't willing to settle for anything but the best, he might be met with disappointment in free agency.
That process is a ways off, of course, and for all we know there will be legitimate interest from teams with confidence in their training staffs. For now, though, image matters, and Oden would be well-served by displaying his willingness to adapt to circumstances.
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