Greg Oden goes through his first NBA practice in four years with Heat

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The Heat will not place any expectations at all on the fragile psyche of Greg Oden this season, at last not publicly. There will continue to be no timetable for his return to games that count, but Miami signed him for a reason.

If the gamble pays off, the Heat will have a big and capable body to match up with the likes of the Pacers’ Roy Hibbert in the postseason; Indiana (along with Chicago and Brooklyn) appear to be the biggest challenge to Miami’s bid to get back to a fourth straight NBA Finals.

But it will be baby steps with Oden all season long up until then. He took the first of those incremental strides on Tuesday, going through his first full practice with an NBA team in quite some time.

From Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com:

Tuesday was a bit surreal for Miami Heat center Greg Oden.

Not only was he going through his first NBA practice in four years, but it was taking place in the middle of a hotel ballroom on a tropical island.

The Heat opened training camp with a standard, defensive drill-oriented workout in a warehouse-like conference center at the Atlantis Resort. Oden took part in about half of the practice, but that still was a significant step forward as he attempts a long-shot comeback after not playing since December 2009 because of chronic knee problems.

“It felt good just being out there,” Oden said. “It’s the first time in awhile, I’m happy I got it completed. They had to pull me off the floor. But I’ve got to take steps.”

Oden’s enthusiasm to make it back will be key in continuing the long rehabilitation process. But at least in these very early stages, things are going according to a plan that Miami hopes will be fully executed by the time the postseason begins.