Greg Oden makes first NBA regular season appearance since 2009

Rob Carr

It took over four years, but Oden made it back to the NBA.

Focusing on the Washington Wizards would've been easy, as they mounted a monster lead over the Miami Heat in the first half Wednesday night, but something else more incredible happened in the process: Greg Oden played real NBA basketball, in the regular season.

More than four years after retiring as a result of lengthy injury issues that derailed a potentially great career, Oden took the court at Verizon Center in the second quarter Wednesday while the Heat rallied following Washington's eye-popping run. It came fairly unceremoniously as folks tried to figure out what voodoo the Wizards used in going up 64-30, but the former No. 1 pick came in and did his thing.

To be more precise, he filled a lot of space, made some crafty moves and slammed home a couple dunks:

OdenDunk1

OdenDunk2

While a run from the Heat comes as a surprise to nobody, Oden's appearance seemed to be a turning point while the Wizards' absolute post dominance slowed to a halt. Miami ended the half on a 18-5 run, the majority of it coming with the big man on the court.

Funny thing is, Oden wasn't even sure he would play Wednesday. "Earlier [Wednesday] coach said that I can dress and that I didn't know if I was going to play or not. Got out there and I did and I'm happy I got the chance," the big man told SB Nation following the game.

"It felt good just being able to be back on the court, and honestly the big thing is just being able to have that connection with my teammates," Oden said. "I've been here and been around, but when you're not playing deep down you don't really feel a part of the team as much. So, I'm happy I can do that and I can go to battle with these guys."

For the defending champs, this may be the most positive thing to come out of Wednesday night's game. The result of the game hardly seems important compared to the possibility that Oden becomes a legitimate interior weapon for Miami in the postseason -- something that genuinely seems possible after just a few glimpses into a healthier version of the center.

The Heat love to spread the floor and maximize the skills of their best players, but we've seen how certain matchups can give this team fits. If Oden can help fill the role that's gone to Chris Andersen and the recently-traded Joel Anthony in recent years, and do it better, people across the NBA may need to re-calibrate their plans for preventing a Miami three-peat.

(Seth Pollack contributed reporting to this article)

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