The Miami Heat held their exit interviews on Wednesday, days after they celebrated with a parade down Biscayne Boulevard. Pat Riley said a lot of interesting things, mostly how he wants to keep this team intact.
James Jones and Rashard Lewis have already jumped in for next season, and they exercised their team option to keep Mario Chalmers. That leaves the goal of keeping Chris Andersen up front, with the only roster spots after that available are found in Juwan Howard and Jarvis Varnado. Howard, now 40, likely will retire.
There has been a lot of previous talk and interest in the possibility of Greg Oden. Oden, who has had multiple knee surgeries, has sat out the last year plus trying to recover. The former 2007 first-overall pick is rumored to be ready for a return, and the Heat have been talking with him.
"We had a great two day visit, we will explore that and see where it goes." These were Riley's words on Wednesday about Greg Oden. Riley also mentioned style of play as an important piece to what qualifications a big men needs to be fit in with the Heat.
"We need to improve." said Riley. And Oden may be that piece for improvement, or he may not. But we will leave the talent evaluation up to Riley as we always do. The saying around here goes, "In Riley We Trust."
But one of the most important pieces about anyone who signs with the Heat is how they will fit into the unique culture that is established here. I got the chance to ask a few of these questions to someone who is close to Oden, his high school coach from Lawrence North in Indianapolis, Jack Keefer.
Keefer has been at Lawrence North for a long time, and has a tradition of success. He mentioned Greg's "great work ethic" as a key piece to what makes him so special. It's clear he has a lot of desire to play, as no one would blame him for retiring. But at 25, Oden wants redemption.
Every Heat player faces extreme criticism as playing on this global team. Keefer mentioned Oden's accomplishments (3 state championships in a row, a national championship, a Final Four appearance as a freshman at OSU) as examples of how Greg handles pressure. I asked Keefer about the criticism one faces in the national spotlight and how Oden would respond to that. He said, "It would be hard for him because he always wants to do well and be accepted, but it drives him to work harder." It's clear from him that there isn't a bit of doubt that he would thrive in the Heat environment.
Lastly, the key word about the Heat since LeBron James joined the team has been the idea of sacrifice. Every player must make a sacrifice to be a part of this team. Ray Allen, Lewis, Battier, Andersen, Haslem, on and on...players have taken sacrifices to be a part of something special. Greg would need to do the same thing. When asked about this behavior in Greg, Keefer sighted, "He always deferred his great play in a game to his teammates."
Greg's defense, shot blocking and ability to run the floor are what Keefer thinks would make Oden a successful piece to the Heat's roster. Oden could fill Howard's roster spot if Riley chooses to do so, and if Oden takes this route for his return to the NBA.
Only time will tell if this is an Eddy Curry story or the new Greg Oden story.
Either way, Oden's character will fit in with the Heat, Pat Riley will decide if his game is up for the challenge of joining the rotation of the back-to-back NBA Champions.
What do you think?
If the Heat can convince Greg Oden to sacrifice and join the team, do you think it's a good move?