MIAMI — The Miami Heat are on a short list to sign injury-riddled center Greg Oden, the 2007 top draft pick who hasn’t played in the NBA in more than three years. But the soonest Oden could be available to play for the Heat is next season.
Oden’s agent, Mike Conley, said in a phone interview Wednesday with FOX Sports Florida that Oden could visit Miami as soon as next week.
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“We haven’t set it up yet but we want to go down there and meet with (the Heat) and get to know them and vice-versa,’’ Conley said.
Although Conley had talked to FOX Sports Florida last year about Oden’s interest in the Heat, he had said on Jan. 10 he hadn’t heard anything yet from the team about his client. However, he said he talked to Miami president Pat Riley shortly thereafter.
“We’ve been talking on and off for the last two or three weeks,’’ Conley said of Riley. “They’re interested.’’
Conley said there’s a “very good chance’’ Oden, 25, will sign with an NBA team before the end of the season for rehab purposes and to get to know the organization. However, he said Oden, who has had five knee surgeries and last played in an NBA game on Dec. 5, 2009, definitely would not play again until next season.
Conley confirmed another team on Oden’s list is Cleveland. He said Boston also could be a possibility although there haven’t been conversations yet with the Celtics.
If the Heat were to sign Oden this season, they would need an open roster spot. Miami on Wednesday guaranteed the contract of forward Jarvis Varnado for the rest of the season after his second 10-day contract expired. That means 14 players on the maximum allowable roster of 15 have guaranteed deals.
The Heat on Wednesday signed center Chris Andersen to a second 10-day deal, which is the limit a player can get. So a roster spot would be open if Andersen isn’t eventually signed for the rest of the season.
Of course, the Heat could waive or trade a player if that is required to open a spot for Oden. The trade deadline is Feb. 21.
The Heat only could offer Oden a minimum contract. But Conley said that’s not a significant consideration at this point.
“That’s not something that we’re really concerned about now,’’ said Conley, who said it’s a possibility Oden could sign with a team just for the remainder of this season to test the waters and then again be a free agent during the summer.
The Cavaliers could offer Oden more money. And while they are are hardly championship caliber, they do benefit by being just up the road from where Oden played at Ohio State.
“There’s definitely interest (in Cleveland) because obviously he’s from Ohio State and so there’s a lot of synergy there with that team,’’ Conley said of Oden, who is from Indianapolis, and the Cavaliers. “That’s sort of a home-state team, so Cleveland would make sense also.’’
Regarding Boston, Conley said he could “see that definitely being a possibility’’ down the road as a destination.
Conley, whose son Mike Conley Jr., is a point guard for the Memphis, said he had conversations in the past with previous owner Michael Heisley about Oden joining the Grizzlies. But he said there have been no talks with the Grizzlies since Robert Pera bought the team last year from Heisley.
Conley wouldn’t name any other teams. He said about four could be in the mix for Oden to visit this season.
Oden attended Ohio State’s game Tuesday against Wisconsin in Columbus, Ohio. But he didn’t shed any light on a future destination.
“I’m worried about the knee,” Oden told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “That’s it… I’m just getting my knee ready so when things do happen ,I’ll be ready to play next year. I’m still in the rehab process, but I’m it taking slow. I could possibly be playing at this point, but I’ve done that before and I got injured before, so I’d rather take everything I am doing slow.’’
Oden has had five surgeries on both his knees since entering the NBA with Portland in 2007-08, including two surgeries last February, one being his third microfracture procedure. Oden played in just 82 games with the Trail Blazers over 4 ½ seasons before being waived by the team last March.
Since then, Oden has been splitting his time between Indianapolis and Columbus while rehabbing on his own.
For now, Conley said there is no rush for Oden to pick a team. If it doesn’t work out next week and with the All-Star break coming up Feb. 15-17, Conley said there is a chance Oden’s visit to Miami could get pushed back until later in February.
Oden, though, is interested in the Heat. And Conley said the feeling is mutual.