NBA.com staff reports
Another year, another Greg Oden rumor.
The last we heard of Oden in this space, the former No. 1 overall pick of the 2007 Draft was drawing interest from the Miami Heat. Keep in mind, this was shortly after the lockout ended and Oden had just a qualifiying offer on the table from Portland. Oden ended up restructuring his deal in December of 2011 after having another setback with his gimpy knees — a setback that eventually turned into another lost season after doctors determined he needed another microfracture surgery in February.
Now comes word from ESPN.com Brian Windhorst (who reported the first Heat-Oden dalliance) that the ex-Blazers big man is eyeing a return, but not until the 2013-14 season:
Sources told ESPN.com that multiple teams have already expressed interest in signing Oden to a multi-year deal before the end of this season that would allow him to continue his rehab until he can get back on the court in training camp next fall.
The Miami Heat are at the front of the line in pursuing Oden, two sources said, and have been keeping tabs as he recovers while also taking classes at Ohio State.
Sources say that the Heat, though, are not alone in their pursuit of the former No. 1 overall pick.
The Heat potentially could have two roster spots available this season, one of which Oden could slide into as he continues to rehab. Team president Pat Riley is known to like gambling on long shots, especially when it comes to big men.
Don’t get too excited yet, though, Miami fans. There are some cap-related hurdles which could keep Oden from joining Miami’s star-studded (and defending-champion) cast of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the near future.
One concern for the Heat, though, is they already are committed to more than $80 million in salaries for next season and very likely will have a final payroll coming close to $90 million in a year when the new, more harsh luxury tax kicks in. Oden would potentially be a costly gamble even on a minimum-level contract. The Heat are also currently about $14 million over the luxury-tax line for this season.
In attempting another comeback, Oden’s camp is planning to take a very conservative approach. So the plan is for him to sit out the rest of this season and summer league to make sure he allows himself the best chance of finally getting healthy.
The Heat, who have been on the lookout for a center for three years, were interested in Oden before the start of last season when he was a restricted free agent. But he ended up taking a one-year, $8.9 million deal with the Blazers. After a setback in his recovery, the contract was reduced to $1.5 million and he later had the microfracture procedure.
It’s a gamble for the Heat if this all works out, given that Oden has never played in a full season (his healthiest campaign was a 61-game effort in 2008-09). Still, if Oden is fully recovered — and given the talent he showed in his collegiate days at Ohio State — his landing in Miami (or elsewhere) could be the steal of the offseason.