Greg Oden will play for the Miami Heat this upcoming season, according to ESPN's Marc Stein, ending an NBA hiatus that has been ongoing since Dec. 5, 2009. Oden's return to the court has been rumored for the past couple of years, but his signing with the Heat makes it a reality. His contract is for one year with a player option for a second, per ESPN's Jeff Goodman.
Oden reportedly had offers on the table from the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Pelicans, Atlanta Hawks and Sacramento Kings, but reports earlier Friday mentioned that both the Hawks and Kings were out of the running for the uber-skilled big man.
The 25-year-old Oden was originally selected with the first overall pick of the 2007 NBA Draft, but a myriad of injuries forced an early exit from the league. He hasn't played in the regular season since 2009, but the Portland Trail Blazers kept him on their roster until the end of the 2011-12 season with hopes that his injury list would quit growing.
The list is extensive, but the microfracture surgery on his right knee that caused him to miss his rookie season, the 2010 microfracture surgery on his left knee and the Feb. 20, 2012, microfracture surgery (again on his left knee) are the major reasons he's missed the last few seasons of professional basketball. Those are just the serious knee surgeries and don't include things like a fractured left patella, a right knee scope, surgery on his wrist or a hip surgery in grade school, either -- all of which have likely contributed to his injury-shortened 82-game basketball career.
Injury concern is likely the reason some teams didn't offer Oden a contract, especially after seeing the mess the Philadelphia 76ers had to go through last season with Andrew Bynum. The difference with gambling on Oden, according to SB Nation's own Tom Ziller, is that the upside outweighs the relatively low cost of getting a potential difference maker.
Bynum hurt Philly so much because he was an all-in bet. Oden is two chips at a low-limit table. Oden is jaywalking across an Old West dirt path. He's skydiving from the top bunk. There's just not much risk at this point because there's not much cost.
And in fact, in a salary cap league, finding gems with low monetary and asset costs is a huge part of the game.
Oden is seemingly healthy now, however, as reports indicated that he was noticeably slimmer and looking solid athletically when he hosted five teams at a recent workout. That doesn't mean he'll be able to stay healthy over the duration of his contract, of course, but the fact that he's spent the last year getting healthy hopefully means it'll be sustainable this time around.