Although Oden only played in a total of four minutes, in his very first possession he backed down Al-Farouq Aminu and slammed it down his throat before former No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis could show some help-D on the weak side, showing the new kids on the block that this is still his game.
“It’s been a long time,” Oden said. “It’s been a long road for me, just to get that off my back, my first step tonight. I’m happy I’m able to walk off this court and I’m able to play another day.”
It’s been almost four years since Oden had stepped on the court to face off against an NBA opponent. And even though he only played in a few short possessions, baby steps show progress for this former No. 1 pick.
LeBron James, who went for 27 points, four steals, three rebounds and two steals in Wednesday night’s win, showed his admiration for his fellow teammate, posting on his Facebook, “Man I’m so happy for GO tonight! Couldn’t imagine being away from the game for 3 years. Feel like a proud big brother! Determination wins.”
It’s gotta feel encouraging for Oden that he has the full support of his team, and James in particular, who knows the pressures of being a No. 1 pick.
But as Oden returns to the court for the first time in years, it’s still an extremely long road before he can play a whole quarter, let alone an entire game. Head coach Erik Spoelstra realizes this process and doesn’t plan to push it any further than he has to.
“He’s much further along right now than we anticipated when we first talked to him in July,” Spoelstra said. “But that does not mean, for one second, we’re going to think about fast-tracking the process. We have a very specific plan that we’re going to stay disciplined to.”