Heat plan to be cautious with Greg Oden in return to court

MIAMI — Don’t count on it happening. That doesn’t mean Greg Oden can’t hope it does.
While many believe the Miami Heat will bring the center along very slowly, he doesn’t want that to be the case. Oden, who hasn’t played in an NBA game since December 2009 due to knee problems, is ready to get back into one.
“I’ve got to go through training camp and make sure my body holds up,” Oden, who signed as a free agent in August, said at Heat media day Monday. “If the knee holds up, I would hope they will let me play in the preseason. I think it’s realistic. Just going on how my body feels and how I feel, I think it’s realistic.”
With that in mind, Oden also is hopeful of playing in the Oct. 29 regular-season opener against Chicago.
“I would like to,” Oden said. “I understand I won’t be playing 20 minutes, but if I could get out there and play a couple of minutes.”
Oden does acknowledge the decision will be up to the Heat’s medical staff. Obviously, Miami president Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra also will have something to say about it.
Spoelstra discussed Oden on Monday before the center talked. He gave no timetable for his return, but he sure didn’t sound as if he’s expecting Oden to play in the preseason or in the regular-season opener.
“I tell Greg, ‘No expectations,’ ” Speolstra said. “The expectations are to come in here and work and get healthy. … There’s no timetable (as to when Oden might play). The biggest test for us is can we add to the work load and see how he feels the next day without the timetable of having to perform. If it happens to be two months, three months from now (that Oden plays), we’ll see. But we’re going into it with an open mind and we’ll see what happens.”
Oden was the NBA’s No. 1 draft pick in 2007 by Portland. Knee injuries limited him to just 82 games in his first 4 ½ seasons before the Trail Blazers waived him midway through 2011-12. He didn’t play all of last season.
Oden has been working out regularly in Miami the past two months, doing about 35 minutes each day on the court. Oden, who says his contact work has included battling Heat center Justin Hamilton, said he’s made great progress.
“I can run,” said Oden, who signed a minimum contract with Miami. “The past three years, I haven’t been able to do that. … I’ve got a lot to prove to myself. I’ve been rehabbing for three years. … It’s been a long road.”
Oden said he’s dropped between 35 and 40 pounds in the past year. He says he now weighs 278 pounds.
“I want to lose more,” he said. “I want to be as light as I can be. I want to get to 270, 265.”
The Heat likely will have plenty of patience as Oden attempts to do that. Stay tuned to see how much patience they have before he gets into a game.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com or on Twitter @christomasson