MIAMI — The Miami Heat considered center Greg Oden for their final roster spot before last week signing a guy who is 15 years older. But Oden will be back on the Heat’s radar this summer.
Mike Conley Sr., the agent for Oden, said Wednesday he had discussions with Miami president Pat Riley about the spot the Heat had open between Feb. 21 and last Saturday, when they signed 40-year-old Juwan Howard to a 10-day contract. But Conley Sr. said it was decided it’s best to wait until the summer before talking further about Oden, the NBA’s top draft choice in 2007 who is trying to make a comeback after not having played in the NBA since December 2009 due to knee injuries.
“The Heat are interested in him, and he’s interested in them,’’ Conley Sr. said in a phone interview with FOX Sports Florida. “In Miami’s situation, it just made sense to wait until after the season.’’
Oden, who is continuing to rehab in Columbus, Ohio, where he had played at Ohio State, isn’t ready yet to play this season anyway. Conley Sr. had looked into the possibility of Oden signing with a team for rehab purposes, but he said no team stepped up with an offer.
“I would say if I had to put money on it that he wouldn’t do anything until this summer,’’ Conley Sr. said. “It doesn’t make sense now because teams will have a better idea of where they stand financially in the summer and Greg isn’t able yet to work out with teams. … If a team stepped up with an offer that made it worthwhile (for Oden to sign later this season), that would be great. But we’ll probably hold off until the summer.’’
Among other teams in the mix for Oden, 25, are Cleveland, San Antonio and Charlotte. The agent’s son, Memphis point guard Mike Conley Jr., said Oden has mentioned those and Miami as possibilities.
Conley Jr., is best friends with Oden, having been his teammate at Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis and at Ohio State, where the two teamed up as freshmen to lead the Buckeyes to a 2007 NCAA runner-up finish to Florida. While Conley Jr. said Oden hasn’t singled out just one team for which he definitely wants to play, he said he has spoke of his interest in the Heat.
“No doubt,’’ Conley Jr. said. “He’s obviously displayed interest in Miami and the team they have and the guys they have. I think any situation would be great for him, but Miami obviously would be great for him to be around a bunch of veteran guys and a winning team.’’
Conley Jr. said Oden is looking good in his rehab work. He said he visited Oden in Columbus during the Feb. 15-17 All-Star Weekend and Oden rebounded for him during a workout.
“He’s excited thinking he’ll be able to play soon,’’ Conley Jr. said. “I think he’s where he needs to be. I think he’s right on schedule with where he wants to be. His body looks good. He’s starting to do more and taking his rehab seriously.
“I think he can be a very good big man in this league. Obviously, his injuries have taken their toll, but he has the desire to be as good as he can be. In this league, you don’t just need athleticism if you’re a big man. As long as you know to play the game, he’s going to have a chance. Hopefully, he’ll live up to some of those expectations.’’
Oden was highly touted coming out of Ohio State and being taken by Portland one pick ahead of Kevin Durant. But he played in just 82 of a possible 328 games in his first four years and then was waived by the Trail Blazers midway through last season.
Having five knee operations since entering the NBA has been difficult for Oden. With that in mind, Conley Jr. said he often avoids taking about basketball when he hangs out with his friend.
“Being a friend, I try to leave basketball out of it,’’ Conley Jr. said. “A lot of the conversation will be about other stuff. I treat him like a normal guy. If he wants to go golf and hit some balls, let’s go golf in the offseason and not worry about talking about who hit the game-winning shot in basketball (in a recent game). I try to keep his mind on other stuff because I know it can be hard on him watching and not being able to play.’’
But Conley Jr. said Oden is “very excited’’ now at the belief he will able to return soon. His hopeful return certainly is getting plenty of publicity around the NBA.
“I’d take more of a chance in giving Greg Oden a deal than Andrew Bynum,’’ TNT analyst Charles Barkley said on the air Tuesday while referring to the injured Bynum having yet to play this season for Philadelphia.
Obviously, that’s not going to happen. Oden will command significantly less than Bynum.
The Heat will have the taxpayer mid-level exception available next summer of just more than $3 million. So they should have the ability to sign Oden if it works out.
In the meantime, the Heat will go with Howard, who is a good bet to end up signing for the rest of the season. Howard actually was Oden’s teammate in Portland in 2009-10 and played in Oden’s last game, which was Dec. 5, 2009 against Houston.