“[The Miami Heat] are in the spotlight, what can I say?” Greg Oden said via ESPN. “But for them to come after me with all the stuff I’ve been going through — for them to think I can still be an important piece of their team — I’m really excited about that. The scrutiny … that’s going to be there with any team I signed with. I just want to play.”
And play is what Oden will get to do, when he’s ready — regardless of the rumors I kept hearing about pressure, pressure and more pressure.
Some writers, critics and general managers felt like Oden would excel on a youthful, rebuilding team like the New Orleans Pelicans because there wouldn’t be as much pressure on him to win.
That was a theory that I never really understood. As a matter of fact it was one the most backwards ways of thinking that I’ve ever heard.
If anything, going to an upstart team would add pressure to Oden. Fans would expect him to step in and contribute right away, because no one on the roster would be standing in the way of him collecting monster minutes — minutes that could potentially be too many for a player who told ESPN that his playing time should be monitored.
On the other hand, playing for a team that brought home two titles without him should ease expectations. If he can’t get on the court there’s no big loss. And if he can, they only need him to block a few shots, rebound and put his long arms over the rim and dunk.
Then there’s always this:
“The cool thing about playing for the Heat is when you’re LeBron’s teammate and you screw up, nobody gets mad at you for missing a shot or turning the ball over — they get mad at LeBron for passing to you in the first place,” Oden joked to Grantland on Friday.
Plus who’s better than Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra at eliminating the noise around the locker room? After all, they were able to navigate the LeBron James hate, the “end” of Dwyane Wade and the constant calls for Chris Bosh’s head.
That’s three consecutive championship trips worth of noise.
Yet everyone cites the failed experiments of Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Erick Dampier. But what about the reclamation projects like NBA castaway Chris “Birdman” Andersen or Lamar Odom?
The both went from having problems with the league’s anti-drug policy to NBA champions. In Odom’s case, two championships, the Sixth Man of the Year award and a trip to the Olympics after turning his career around in Miami.
Sounds like the right spot for the former No. 1 pick to forget about his knee trouble and get back on his feet.
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Richard Nurse is a Miami Heat columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @blackirishpr.