The agent for center Greg Oden said Thursday he’s “100 percent” certain his often-injured client will be back playing in the NBA next season. But he said rumors of Oden ending up with the Miami Heat this season in order to rehab are “extreme.”
With Miami playing at Portland on Thursday, there has been speculation the Heat, who can open up a roster spot, could soon sign the 2007 No. 1 draft pick. He then would be under the care of their doctors while preparing to play for next season.
Mike Conley, the agent for Oden, said in a phone interview with FOX Sports Florida it is an option Oden could sign with an NBA team this season for rehab purposes. But he said he has heard nothing from the Heat since Oden was waived by Portland last March.
“Greg Oden will be playing in the NBA next season, I’m 100 percent sure of that,” Conley said of his client, who turns 25 on Jan. 22 and hasn’t played in an NBA game since December 2009. “But I haven’t had any talks with the Heat. I have talked to several teams (that Conley wouldn’t name). I would call (rumors Oden could end up in Miami this season) extreme.”
Conley had told FOX Sports Florida last July that Oden would not be retiring and would be returning to the NBA. Conley said at the time Oden had interest in the Heat, and he said Thursday that remains the case. Even though he has never heard from the Heat throughout this process, Conley didn’t want to rule them out for the future and said it’s certainly possible he eventually could talk to Miami officials.
“Anybody would like to play for a team that can contend for a title, and it is a team that needs another big man,” said Conley, a former track star and the father of Memphis point guard Mike Conley Jr., said about Oden’s interest in Miami.
The Heat, who have been outrebounded by 17 or more in three of their past five games, are desperately seeking another big man to help them this season. They got back up to a full roster of 15 on Thursday when they signed center Josh Harrellson, whom they had waived earlier this week, to a 10-day contract. The Heat now have two players on 10-day deals, so it would be easy in the near future to clear a roster spot or two.
While Conley didn’t want to speculate on teams for which Oden might play next season, he said Portland definitely is out of the question. After the Trail Blazers selected Oden in the 2007 draft over Kevin Durant, he played only 82 games for them in four full seasons and part of last season.
“I’m not being negative, but Portland as an organization is going a different direction and Greg is going a different direction,” Conley said.
Oden has had five surgeries on both his knees since entering the NBA, including two surgeries last February, one being his third microfracture procedure. But Conley said Oden, who is working out on his own in Columbus, Ohio, is now jumping as well as he did before the surgeries last February.
“He’s rehabbing and doing very well,” Conley said.
Conley said Oden is regularly playing basketball, but didn’t want to go into how much. Conley went so far as to say Oden one day will live up to projections and be an NBA All-Star.
“I think when he comes back, maybe five or six or seven months after that, he should return to the type of player where he should have been,” Conley said. “It will take some time to get his conditioning back. I think that when he comes back to playing in the NBA, he will have the ability to be an All-Star.”
Conley said Oden’s mental state is good. He said Oden took classes last fall at Ohio State, where he played as a freshman in 2006-07, but is now not enrolled while concentrating on his rehabbing and basketball.
“Few players have been through what Greg has been through,” Conley said. “He’s been looked at as somebody who hasn’t panned out and been a disappointment. He’s been through a lot. But the way he has handled all of this he has inspired me.”
Conley said the decision was made for Oden to not try to play this season so he could work his way back on his own pace and without added pressure. But Conley said it could be beneficial if Oden were to sign with an NBA team before the end of this season for rehab purposes.
“We are considering that,” Conley said. “We are looking at all of our options.”
Asked about the Heat having only a minimum salary to potentially offer Oden, Conley said it’s too early to speculate on financial considerations at this point. But Conley has no problem speculating that Oden will be back in the NBA next season.