ESPN's Michael Wallace reported today that Heat center Greg Oden will likely be cleared for full, five-on-five practice work next week. He could play in his first NBA game since 2009 during one of Miami's remaining preseason games in what may become a breakthrough in this salvage attempt of Oden's career.
Wallace said that Oden participated in more physically demanding contact work in practices earlier this week. He experienced no setbacks after two four-on-four scrimmages. The Heat do not practice today, but are scheduled for workouts tomorrow and Monday.
Even if he will never reach his potential as a former No. 1 pick and perceived franchise player, the fact that Oden may play in an NBA game for the first time in four years should not be understated. He likely stands as the only Heat player who can adequately defend Indiana's Roy Hibbert. If Oden is only able to act as a defensive stalwart on the level of Alonzo Mourning during his second stint in Miami, he will act as a valuable contributor to the Heat's chances of three-peating. Participating in full-contact practice and playing a few NBA minutes will serve as the first steps in this incremental process of salvaging Oden's career.