MIAMI — LeBron James now has a fellow No. 1 pick on the Miami Heat.
The differences in their careers, though, are tremendous. While James has gone on to win four MVP trophies and two championships since being drafted No. 1 in 2003, Greg Oden has done little since being taken with the top selection in 2007.
But the Heat will give the often-injured Oden a chance to reclaim his career. Oden, who hasn’t played in a game since December 2009 because of knee problems, was officially signed Wednesday by the team to a two-year, $2.172 million contract, with the second year a player option.
“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, 25, announced last Friday he had chosen the two-time defending champions over San Antonio, Dallas, New Orleans, Atlanta and Sacramento. He came to Miami this week and passed his physical on Tuesday.
The 7-foot Oden has been said to have looked good in recent workouts. But it will be a while before the Heat really know what they have.
“After many months of discussion, evaluations and speaking with Greg, we felt it was the perfect time for him to make his comeback and re-enter the NBA with the Miami Heat,” Miami president Pat Riley said in a statement. “It’s a great challenge for him. We all know 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.”
The Heat plan to bring Oden along very slowly. While his agent, Mike Conley Sr., has told FOX Sports Florida that Oden should be ready to play at start of next season, Conley said it’s ultimately up to the Heat when Oden might take the court.
After being picked No. 1 in 2007 by Portland, Oden missed his entire rookie year because of knee surgery. He’s had a total of five surgeries on both knees and was waived by the Trail Blazers in March 2012.
Oden will wear No. 20 for the Heat, the number he wore at Ohio State in his only season there (2006-07). Oden donned No. 52 for Portland because No. 20 had been retired in honor of Maurice Lucas.
It’s unlikely Oden ever will come close to matching expectations he had after leading Ohio State to the 2007 NCAA title game and then bolting to the pros. But the Heat hope Oden, who has averages of 9.4 points and 7.3 rebounds in 82 career NBA games, can at least be a solid big man.
The Heat need help at center, a position manned by converted power forward Chris Bosh. But the thinking is they really don’t need him to make any kind of impact until next spring’s playoffs, when the Heat could run into big men during the playoffs such as Indiana’s Roy Hibbert, Chicago’s Joakim Noah and Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez.
There’s no way the Heat could have found a big man in free agency as intriguing as Oden for simply a minimum contract. Oden will make $1,027,000 next season, and his 2014-15 player option is worth $1,045,000.
Not many No. 1 picks are playing for the minimum six years after entering the NBA. But at least Oden has a chance to continue his career.