Greg Oden looked happy and sounded relieved following Miami's 108-95 preseason victory over New Orleans on Wednesday, a contest that saw the Heat center's first NBA game action since Dec. 5, 2009.
"It's been three years, three long years," Oden told Sun Sports sideline reporter Jason Jackson in a post-game interview. "My friends and my family and God have been with me the entire way. I finished the game."
Before the game, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra did not reveal his intention to play Oden for the first time during the preseason, but Oden said that he was aware that he would be making his debut against the Pelicans.
"Yeah, I did [know]," he said. "They kind of told me earlier in the day. I'm happy I'm able to walk off this court. I'm able to play another day."
Shortly after checking in during the second quarter, the seven-footer received a pass from Chris Bosh and went up to complete a two-hand dunk.
"I'm happy my first shot was a dunk and I made it," he said. "I'm still getting it back, I've got a long ways to go but I'm happy to be out there."
WATCH: Greg Oden dunks on first possession in Heat debut
Oden finished with two points (on 1-for-1 shooting), two rebounds, and two turnovers in four minutes.
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft out of Ohio State reportedly had suffered minor setbacks during training camp due to swelling in his surgically-repaired knee. Miami will conclude its preseason schedule on Friday against the Nets, but Oden was solely focused on his treatment program for Wednesday night and Thursday.
"Right now, ice," he said, when asked what was next for him. "Make sure that tomorrow that I take care of everything I need to and make sure the swelling is down, and my knee is good. Go out there and look forward to the next game, getting into it."
Oden signed a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract with the Heat in August. He holds career averages of 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game over five seasons with the Blazers, who selected him one spot above Thunder All-Star forward Kevin Durant.
After being released by the Blazers in March 2012, Oden has been rehabilitating from multiple knee surgeries, including a second microfracture surgery on his left knee in February 2012 and arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. Prior to that round of surgeries, 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
and admitted to problems with alcohol during his time with the Blazers.