“When I’m out there on the court, I don’t really think about anything. I just go out there and play. I think that is the best way to do it,” Greg Oden said, according to ESPN.com. Greg Oden gave this quote shortly after the Miami Heat beat the Detroit Pistons, reaffirming to many that he is still mentally able to be a part of this league. No one is questioning Oden’s mental capabilities, but how about his physical ones?
Oden, since making his Heat debut against the Washington Wizards, has averaged 3.5 points, 2.2 rebounds and 0.5 blocks on 47 percent shooting from the field. These numbers might not seem significant, but the impact Oden has just by being on the floor due to his size can’t be tallied in the box score. His 7-foot-0 frame warrants attention from multiple frontcourt defenders, and this allows Miami’s players to play with more aggression near the rim. Oden’s progression has been spectacular, and all signs are pointing to the big man being able to make solid contributions in the playoffs, IF he can stay healthy. This is still a BIG if.
Because of his history, now is not the time to push Oden physically. His healthy and longevity should mean a lot more than a few trivial wins in the regular season for Miami, so keeping his minutes per game average under eight would be ideal. Although Oden has been showing tons of promise with the increased minute load (with no setbacks), his physical body should be treated like glass, with EXTREME care. One slight twist or turn in his knee could set him back months in terms of rehabilitation, and potentially cost Miami a third straight title.
Oden’s size has a lot more value on the court than what the box score shows, and if he can remain healthy and play low minutes heading into the playoffs, he will provide something for Miami that they haven’t had since Shaquille O’Neal was in a Heat uniform, and that is a rim enforcer. Health is the key here, and Erik Spoelstra should absolutely not extend Oden’s minutes.