MIAMI The Miami Heat are on a short list to sign injury-riddled center Greg Oden, the 2007 top draft pick who hasnt played in the NBA in more than three years. But the soonest Oden could be available to play for the Heat is next season.Odens agent, Mike Conley, said in a phone interview Wednesday with FOX Sports Florida that Oden could visit Miami as soon as next week.We havent set it up yet but we want to go down there and meet with (the Heat) and get to know them and vice-versa, Conley said.Although Conley had talked to FOX Sports Florida last year about Odens interest in the Heat, he had said on Jan. 10 he hadnt heard anything yet from the team about his client. However, he said he talked to Miami president Pat Riley shortly thereafter.Weve been talking on and off for the last two or three weeks, Conley said of Riley. Theyre interested.
Conley said theres a very good chance Oden, 25, will sign with an NBA team before the end of the season for rehab purposes and to get to know the organization. However, he said Oden, who has had five knee surgeries and last played in an NBA game on Dec. 5, 2009, definitely would not play again until next season.Conley confirmed another team on Odens list is Cleveland. He said Boston also could be a possibility although there havent been conversations yet with the Celtics.If the Heat were to sign Oden this season, they would need to have an open roster spot. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Wednesday the Heat will guarantee the contract of forward Jarvis Varnado for the rest of the season after his second 10-day contract expired. That would give Miami 14 players with guaranteed deals.The Heat on Wednesday signed center Chris Andersen to a second 10-day deal, which is the limit a player can get. So a roster spot would be open if Andersen isnt eventually signed for the rest of the season.Of course, the Heat could waive or trade a player if that is required to open a roster spot for Oden. The trade deadline is Feb. 21.The Heat only could offer Oden a minimum contract. But Conley said thats not a significant consideration at this point.Thats not something that were really concerned about now, said Conley, who said its a possibility Oden could sign with a team just for the remainder of this season to test the waters and then again be a free agent during the summer.The Cavaliers could offer Oden more money. And while they are are hardly championship caliber, they do benefit by being just up the road from where Oden played at Ohio State.Theres definitely interest (in Cleveland) because obviously hes from Ohio State and so theres a lot of synergy there with that team, Conley said of Oden, who is from Indianapolis, and the Cavaliers.That's sort of a home-state team, so Cleveland would make sense also.Regarding Boston, Conley said he could see that definitely being a possibility down the road as a destination.Conley, whose son Mike Conley Jr., is a point guard for the Memphis, said he had conversations in the past with previous owner Michael Heisley about Oden joining the Grizzlies. But he said there have been no talks with the Grizzlies since Robert Pera bought the team last year from Heisley.Conley wouldnt name any other teams. He said about four could be in the mix for Oden to visit this season.
Oden attended Ohio States game Tuesday against Wisconsin in Columbus, Ohio. But he didnt shed any light on a future destination."I'm worried about the knee," Oden told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. That's it I'm just getting my knee ready so when things do happen ,I'll be ready to play next year. I'm still in the rehab process, but I'm it taking slow. I could possibly be playing at this point, but I've done that before and I got injured before, so I'd rather take everything I am doing slow.
Oden has had five surgeries on both his knees since entering the NBA with Portland in 2007-08, including two surgeries last February, one being his third microfracture procedure. Oden played in just 82 games with the Trail Blazers over 4 seasons before being waived by the team last March.Since then, Oden has been splitting his time between Indianapolis and Columbus while rehabbing on his own.Hes looking great, Conley said. Hes moving well.For now, Conley said there is no rush for Oden to pick a team. If it doesnt work out next week and with the All-Star break coming up Feb. 15-17, Conley said there is a chance Odens visit to Miami could get pushed back until later in February.Oden, though, is interested in the Heat. And Conley said the feeling is mutual.Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson