The Miami Heat aren't in a rush to bring along Greg Oden, but ESPN's Michael Wallace reports there's a good chance the center is fully cleared to participate in practice next week with a hopeful return by the preseason finale.
Miami began including Oden in its practices at the beginning of October and have slowly increased his participation. The center has not played in an NBA game since 2009 because of chronic knee issues that have required two season-ending knee surgeries.
In the last week, the Heat have gradually given Oden more to work on individually, but he has yet to play in 5-on-5 drills.
With five more games on the preseason schedule, a return to practice next week would allow Oden to return by the Oct. 25 game against the Brooklyn Nets, which is Miami's final test before the regular season. Oden could also return for an Oct. 23 game against the New Orleans Pelicans. Next week, the Heat have games against the Wizards on Tuesday, the Nets on Thursday and the Spurs on Saturday.
The team has remained cautious about reporting overly-optimistic status updates about Oden, but his presence in 4-on-4 drills and other practice sessions has only been encouraging.