On Thursday night as the Miami Heat took on the struggling Los Angeles Lakers, Greg Oden checked into the game and played 10 minutes. In that time, Oden put up five points, five rebounds and one block while shooting 2-5 from the floor and hitting one of his two attempts from the charity stripe.
Since touching the floor in an NBA regular season game for the first time since 2009 on Jan. 15 against the Washington Wizards, the Heat have been easing Oden back into action, resting him often and playing him sparingly. In fact, his 10 minutes on Thursday were a high for the season out of the four games that he’s played in.
Oden has visibly looked out of shape and has been shaking off some rust, which is probably the most understandable thing to ever happen in the NBA. Oden’s production also hasn’t been monstrous by any mean with him totaling 14 points, eight rebounds and two blocks on 5-11 shooting in 29 minutes of action.
Even if he never gets to be a 20-minute-per-game center like the Heat have to hope he can be in terms of a potential postseason run, it really feels like he’s already locked up the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. After all, the award was once called the Comeback Player of the Year award, and there’s no greater comeback story in sports right now than Oden.
You can call Oden a bust or talk about his misfortune regarding injuries and so on, but the fact that he’s been able to persevere after all that he’s been through and just simply play minutes in an NBA game at this point makes him deserving of the honor. If anyone else were to take home that hardware, I’d be shocked.