Greg Oden, the former No. 1 overall pick with the Portland Trail Blazers, has signed a two-year contract with the Miami Heat, winners of back-to-back NBA titles. The deal will pay him about $1 million this coming season with a $1.1 million player option for the 2014-2015 season.
The 25-year-old Oden, who has had three microfracture surgery on his knees, has not played in the NBA in nearly four years.
“I am very excited and happy to be here,” Oden said. “I’m thankful to the Miami Heat organization for bringing me in and I’m ready to get to work.”
Oden was the first pick in the 2007 NBA draft, one spot ahead of four-time all-star and three-time NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant. Even before Oden’s NBA career began, he was plagued with injuries, undergoing microfracture surgery during the summer of 2007 to repair cartilage in his right knee. Oden broke his left kneecap in December 2009, and that effectively ended his playing career with the Trail Blazers.
Heat president Pat Riley intends on taking a cautious approach will the oft-injured 7-footer.
“It’s a great challenge for him,” Riley said in a statement released through the team. “We know all about his past injuries, but we feel that there is a huge upside and the possibility of him helping us. We will continue his program and then we will tackle basketball issues after that.”
Riley said the team spent “many months” getting to know Oden, evaluating him both on and off the court before coming to the realization that the time for his comeback may be now.
Oden has a career average of 9.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game over the two seasons he played with the Trail Blazers. But the injuries and pedestrian statistics did not turn away teams from seeking out Oden’s services. Besides the Heat, there were about a half-dozen teams interested in bringing on the center. For Oden, the “big deciding factor” was that the Heat are not expecting him to play big minutes immediately.
“When I had a conversation with Coach [Erik] Spoelstra and hearing how much he knew about the training stuff that I was already doing, it kind of made me feel like they know what’s best for me,” Oden said.
Oden added: “I’m not going to sit here and say I’m 100 percent. I am moving [well] and I am feeling good, but I have a lot of work to do.”
It also doesn’t hurt that Oden will be playing alongside four-time MVP LeBron James in South Beach. Oden said James recruited him via text message. Oden also told ESPN about his goals heading into the 2013-2014 NBA season.
“I want to be able to finish the season healthy. [After] everything I’ve been through, I want to be able to say I played the game and I had no problems.”