When Miami Heat center Greg Oden checked in to Wednesday night's contest against the New Orleans Pelicans, it marked an event many thought would never occur.
It was the 7-foot-2 former No. 1 overall pick's first appearance in game action since 2009, and it didn't take long for him to make his mark. On his first offensive possession, Oden rolled toward the basket after setting a screen for Bosh, received a pass inside from Bosh and dunked with two hands for his first points in four years.
Two rounds of microfracture surgery on his knees have decimated Oden's potential and have all but ended a career that some believed could have had him Hall-of-Fame-bound one day -- he was that good as a high school player. But now he's making one last run (it seems silly to call it that at just 25 years old, but another major injury likely would end his playing days) and he seems to be on his way with Miami.
Let's not get carried away and call his performance Wednesday -- he finished with two points and two rebounds in four minutes -- anything other than the first step in a long battle back to relevance, but it certainly was good to see a player have some success after his knees (and body altogether) have failed him so many times.
And who knows? If Oden's knees do hold up, there's a chance he's able to contribute further to Miami's defense, which is already one of the best in the NBA. The Heat do have Chris "Birdman" Andersen behind Chris Bosh, but as Roy Hibbert, Tim Duncan, Joakim Noah and more proved in the playoffs, you can never have too many fresh power forwards and centers.
When a source spoke with Bulls Insider Aggrey Sam, he said, after seeing Oden in pre-Heat workouts, that there was still potential in the big man...as long as he could stay healthy.
“If he can stay healthy -- and that’s a big if -- he can be effective,” the source told CSNChicago.com. “He understands [the skepticism many people have about him staying healthy], given his history.
“[But] he's not a bust,” the individual insisted. “He's been injured.”
It's perhaps the biggest "if" in basketball hypotheticals: "If Greg Oden can stay healthy..." but Wednesday night's performance was a step in the right direction, and his outgoing personality makes him someone to root for...even if he is playing in Miami.