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.
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.
Joel Embiid on Monday will have an MRI on his injured left knee and is now listed as out indefinitely.
Embiid has been experiencing swelling and soreness in the left knee injury that has caused him to miss 16 out of the last 17 games. Bryan Colangelo announced back on Feb. 11 that Embiid has a minor meniscal tear. In his most recent press conference last Friday, Colangelo had targeted this Friday’s home game against the Knicks as a possibility for Embiid’s return. Now, that isn’t the case.
Embiid had been the biggest ray of hope for Philadelphia, but the 76ers shouldn’t chase watchability down the stretch. Sit Embiid until he’s fully healthy and secure the best draft position possible.
Maybe Embiid’s body just can’t handle the rigors of NBA basketball, but Philadelphia has no choice but to hope for the best with him and Simmons. And hope the nail the their first-round pick this year and get the Lakers’ first-rounder.
This could still be a dangerously good team in coming years. The Process created that potential.
But the threat of injury always looms around the corner, maybe especially so for Embiid.
Report: Knicks’ Joakim Noah likely to miss rest of season after knee surgery
Prepare for the talk next fall about Noah feeling refreshed and ready to help the Knicks.
But this surgery won’t reverse the underlying problem: Noah is a 31-year-old big man with heavy mileage. He can manage his knees, but it’s probably too late for him to regain enough athleticism to reliably contribute.
Just three years and $55 million+ remaining on his contract, which already looked like the NBA’s worst deal and is now even more unfavorable.
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