INDIANAPOLIS – Greg Oden has every reason to be frustrated and disappointed. The former No. 1 overall pick out of Ohio State has endured three micro fracture knee surgeries, the last in February 2012, and hasn’t played an NBA game since Dec. 5, 2009.
This was not the career Oden, now 25, envisioned.
The former Portland Trail Blazer, however, was all smiles during a press conference at St. Vincent Sports Performance on Saturday. He will leave Indianapolis on Monday after signing a two-year, $2.173 million deal with the two-time defending champion Miami Heat. The second year is a player option.
“After three years of being out, I’m just going to go out and do what I can,” Oden said. “If somehow (my body) says no, then it says no. But for me, I’m not even worried about that. Just go play and not even think about that.
“I’ve signed on the dotted line, put it like that. I’ve got a contract. As y’all can see this smile, I’ve got a contract. I’m excited.”
There haven’t been many reasons to smile about Oden’s professional career. He’s been labeled the modern-day Sam Bowie — a bust selected instead of a Hall of Famer. Bowie was selected No. 2 in the 1984 draft, one pick before Michael Jordan. Oden was taken one pick before Kevin Durant. He’s played a total of 82 NBA games and averaged 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks.
“Two years ago when I was in Portland, there were some dark times for me,” Oden said. “That two weeks after my last surgery I was just like, ‘I don’t know what’s going on. What’s going to happen? Which way is it going to go?’
“Two weeks later I was like, ‘I’m coming back.’ That’s what I want to do.”
Oden will no longer overwhelm opponents with sheer athleticism. He’ll be a role player off the bench. The goal is simple: play basketball again.
St. Vincent Sports Performance has been the center of Oden’s rehab efforts.
The Heat had their staff at the facility monitoring Oden well before he signed. Everyone knows his status.
So why Miami? San Antonio, Cleveland, Dallas, New Orleans, Sacramento and Atlanta all showed interest.
“If I take out the possibility of getting hurt, why would I not play with the champs?” he answered.
“If LeBron decides to get another ring, I get one too, now.”