Greg Oden Media Day

In a low risk, potentially high-payoff move, the Miami Heat signed Greg Oden this season to give him the platform for his NBA comeback. As training camp for the 2013-2014 season begins, so does the former number one draft pick start his first practice sessions in over four years.

There’s no contact at the moment, and not even full practices. Oden is going to take baby steps back into the NBA, because this is truly the last chance anyone will give him. The Heat are training at the Atlantis Resorts in the Bahamas, giving their training camp quite a tropical vacation vibe. However, for Oden, it seems to be a lot more important than just being ready for the new season. It’s about setting the ground work for the rest of his NBA career, and actually creating a future where there is one.

Oden took part of a defensive-oriented drill, but took part in about half the practice before sitting down while his teammates carried on, with ice on both his knees. Oden wanted to carry on playing, but the Miami Heat, who aren’t counting on him too much but are hoping that he can have a huge impact on them down the road, aren’t taking any risks that might end this escapade sooner than necessary.

No one is talking about a timetable to bring him back into action in terms of actually playing in a game. Everyone’s using the same mantra: Day by day, practice by practice, minute by minute. It won’t be surprising to see Oden shelved at the end of the bench through preseason, without anyone really knowing when he’ll get to make his debut.

Oden last played an NBA game in 2009 for the Portland Trail Blazers. He has a career average of 9.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game during his short time with the Blazers. If the Heat getting anything close to that from him they’ll be quite happy, as Oden’s main function is supposed to be being present and healthy when the playoffs arrive. Sooner than that isn’t as important, and the numbers he puts up aren’t either. Just being a big body and an option in the paint or a deterrent on defense when big games are on the line will be enough.

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