Greg Oden expanding pregame workouts, getting closer to return with Heat

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When Miami took a chance this offseason by signing Greg Oden to a one-year minimum salary contract, it wasn’t necessarily to add depth to the team for the long grind of the regular season.

The acquisition was purely a long-term strategy, one that hoped to bring in another serviceable big body to battle the size of the Heat’s most formidable foes in the Eastern Conference, the Indiana Pacers.

There has never been any hurry to get Oden back onto the floor in the first part of the season. But he’s been ramping up his workout regimen as of late, and by all appearances he’s getting closer to being able to contribute meaningful minutes for the defending champs.

From Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report:

Oden, traveling with the Miami Heat on their West Coast road trip, has been expanding his pregame workouts. Friday, prior to the Heat’s game with Sacramento, the center spent about 20 minutes working with Heat assistant coaches Juwan Howard and Dan Craig, storming out of the paint for closeouts, and running sprints. Sweating profusely, and clearly exhausted—he held himself up by the net at several stages—he did not seem to be in any pain.

Yet none of this progress means that we’ll see Oden in a game anytime soon, let alone Saturday night when the Heat return to face the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2007, the Portland Trail Blazers. Erik Spoelstra said the Heat are still trying to increase Oden’s strength in his legs, hips and core.

Oden played briefly in the preseason, in what was likely an organizational decision to help him get over the mental hurdle of playing again, after not seeing an NBA court before that since December of 2009.

There will remain no urgency to place Oden into the Heat rotation. But it’s more than likely that if he continues to get stronger and make progress, Miami may add a key piece to its active roster in time for the stretch run of the regular season.

Remembering Notre Dame, Laker legend Tommy “the hawk” Hawkins

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Tommy Hawkins passed away recently at the age of 80.

The former NBA player was the first black athlete to earn All-America honors in basketball at Notre Dame (he still holds the school’s total rebounds record), was drafted in the first round, and went on to have a 10-year NBA career playing for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers as well as the Cincinnati Royals. Los Angeles fans may also remember him as the long time director of communications for the Los Angeles Dodgers after his playing days ended.

The NBA put together this well done video look back at Hawkins’ career.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.

Allen Iverson predicts LeBron James will win MVP

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LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.

Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?

Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.

LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.

It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.

Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.