Dec 28, 2013, 11:00 AM EDT
When Miami took a chance this offseason by signing Greg Oden to a one-year minimum salary contract, it wasn’t necessarily to add depth to the team for the long grind of the regular season.
The acquisition was purely a long-term strategy, one that hoped to bring in another serviceable big body to battle the size of the Heat’s most formidable foes in the Eastern Conference, the Indiana Pacers.
There has never been any hurry to get Oden back onto the floor in the first part of the season. But he’s been ramping up his workout regimen as of late, and by all appearances he’s getting closer to being able to contribute meaningful minutes for the defending champs.
Oden, traveling with the Miami Heat on their West Coast road trip, has been expanding his pregame workouts. Friday, prior to the Heat’s game with Sacramento, the center spent about 20 minutes working with Heat assistant coaches Juwan Howard and Dan Craig, storming out of the paint for closeouts, and running sprints. Sweating profusely, and clearly exhausted—he held himself up by the net at several stages—he did not seem to be in any pain.
Yet none of this progress means that we’ll see Oden in a game anytime soon, let alone Saturday night when the Heat return to face the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2007, the Portland Trail Blazers. Erik Spoelstra said the Heat are still trying to increase Oden’s strength in his legs, hips and core.
Oden played briefly in the preseason, in what was likely an organizational decision to help him get over the mental hurdle of playing again, after not seeing an NBA court before that since December of 2009.
There will remain no urgency to place Oden into the Heat rotation. But it’s more than likely that if he continues to get stronger and make progress, Miami may add a key piece to its active roster in time for the stretch run of the regular season.
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