(top) hasn't played in an NBA game since Dec. 5, 2009. (Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
By Ben Golliver
As long as Greg Oden continues to express interest in an NBA comeback, the Heat are likely to be there waiting for him.
The story with the No. 1 overall pick in 2007 has been consistent since he underwent multiple knee surgeries in February 2012 that led to his release by the Blazers: he isn't yet ready to call it a career, but he also isn't likely to get himself right until the 2013-14 season at the earliest.
On Thursday, multiple reports confirmed that Oden continues to rehabilitate from a microfracture surgery on his left knee and arthroscopic surgery on his right knee nearly a year ago.
ESPN.com reported that the Heat remain interested in Oden and would consider signing him this season to monitor his rehabilitation progress.
Sources told ESPN.com that multiple teams have already expressed interest in signing Oden to a multi-year deal before the end of this season that would allow him to continue his rehab until he can get back on the court in training camp next fall. The Miami Heat are at the front of the line in pursuing Oden, two sources said, and have been keeping tabs as he recovers while also taking classes at Ohio State.
In attempting another comeback, Oden's camp is planning to take a very conservative approach. So the plan is for him to sit out the rest of this season and summer league to make sure he allows himself the best chance of finally getting healthy.
Comcast Bay Area also reported that Oden continues his rehabilitation work with an eye on a comeback.
I'm told by Mike Conley, his college teammate at Ohio State, that Greg is back in Columbus, taking classes and trying to get into playing shape and that he hopes to be available to hit the free-agent market and join a team before the end of this season. If he can't get his body right by then or there isn't sufficient interest, he intends to take another shot at it next fall. The takeaway: Oden hasn't given up on resuming his -- or, perhaps more accurately, having a -- NBA career.
Back in December, a Grantland.com writer who has known Oden since high school reported that the former Oden had lost a significant amount of weight during his current rehabilitation work.
I know that Oden is trying to make an unprecedented comeback, and suggesting he can produce at a high level even for one game is borderline insane. But I'm sticking by my prediction because I've seen firsthand how motivated he is to salvage his career. And by that, I mean that he's lost almost 30 pounds during his time off and is moving better than I've ever seen him move since he left Ohio State.
Another ESPN.com writer confirmed the Heat's interest in Oden on Thursday but noted that Oden still has a way to go to get into shape.
Heat eyeing Oden. Have been for awhile. Would even put him on roster just 2 monitor rehab.
Hearing he's nowhere near basketball shape [and] wants no pressure to rush back.
Prior to his round of surgeries in February 2012, Oden also had left knee surgery in 2009 after fracturing his patella, microfracture surgery on his left knee in 2010 to address a "defect" that occurred during non-contact rehabilitation work and a microfracture surgery on his right knee in 2007. Oden also reportedly underwent Orthokine injections on both knees back in May 2012.
Oden has not played in an NBA game since Dec. 5, 2009, a span of 1,132 days. If he is hypothetically able to get on the court for the start of the 2013-14 season, that number would push past 1,300 days. For comparison's sake, Eddy Curry, the Heat's most recent reclamation project, saw 763 days elapse between his final game for the Knicks in December 2009 and his first game for the Heat in January 2012. The Heat have been interested in Oden for years and Oden's agent, Mike Conley Sr., told the Miami Herald in May 2012 that the interest was mutual.
There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of an Oden comeback: he was never consistently healthy during his four-plus seasons in Portland, microfracture surgeries are major surgeries, and he developed blood clots in his left ankle that were considered serious enough to delay his February 2012 surgery. Most damning, Blazers executives admitted following his latest surgeries that Oden was never cleared for full-contact, five-on-five play at any point following his 2009 fractured patella and that significant swelling and pain prevented him from advancing in his rehabilitation work.
Oden, 24, holds career averages of 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game in 82 appearances.