Greg Oden had become an afterthought of a league that had moved on. Too many injuries and too much bad luck made Oden a thing of the past, a “what could have been”. He was a 7-foot giant that was built incorrectly and was missing something to hold his lanky frame together.
It was a career that was all but over. The NBA and its teams had given up on the former top pick, but there was one franchise, one team president who prospered on taking chances and throwing caution into the wind.
Pat Riley had no idea what the Miami Heat would get out of Oden, if anything at all, but that did not stop him from giving the big man a third chance, a third opportunity to have professional basketball career.
Everything came full circle Wednesday night as Miami traveled to face the New Orleans Pelicans for their second to last preseason game.
Now, I will admit that I never expected Oden to play in the preseason. I thought the decision would be careless and volatile to Oden and his health. After all, the man has undergone numerous knee surgeries and has been removed for the Association for nearly four years.
Well, Erik Spoelstra decided to make me look like an idiot and Oden debuted against the Pelicans.
The 7-foot center only played four minutes, but it was probably the longest four minutes of his life. With every jump and lateral movement, I had to shield my eyes in fear that Oden would collapse to the ground in a heap and another knee surgery was on the menu.
There isn’t much we can take away from Oden’s short debut, but I disagree with the decision to play him. You don’t know how the knees are going to hold up or what is going to happen. It would be a meaningless catastrophe if his third comeback attempt was destroyed by a preseason game.
However, I will say this: It was heartwarming to see Oden on the court and playing. The guy has been nothing but a decent person. He has never caused any problems and there has never been any negative publicity about him. He has tried and tried to have a successful career, but injury after injury has plagued his journey. It is great to see Oden back on the court and giving it another go.
Spoelstra and Riley, take it slow with the big guy. Not because he has a guaranteed contract, but because he deserves to have a successful career. It would be one heck of a sight to see Oden holding up the championship trophy in June.