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Count the Dallas Mavericks on the list of NBA teams who are keeping an eye on former No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden.
ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst reported Thursday that Oden, the big man whose career with the Portland Trail Blazers was derailed by serious knee injuries, plans to return to the NBA and play next season.
A source told ESPNDallas.com Friday that the Mavs have been among the teams in contact with Oden's agent, Mike Conley Sr., while the 7-footer rehabs from his third microfracture surgery and takes classes at Ohio State.
Oden still has significant work to do to get healthy enough to make a comeback, but ESPN.com reported that multiple teams have expressed interest in signing him to a multiyear deal this season that would allow him to continue rehabbing under the franchise's supervision until training camp. The Miami Heat are at the front of the list, ESPN.com reported.
However, the Mavs could make a strong case to Oden, although it isn't clear how much of a financial commitment they would be willing to make.
The Mavs have a desperate need for a center who could serve as a defensive anchor next to Dirk Nowitzki. Oden, who averaged 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 82 games with the Trail Blazers, was considered one of the best defensive center prospects ever when Portland opted to pick him instead of Kevin Durant in the 2007 draft.
The Mavs also have a medical staff, led by team doctor T.O. Souryal and Team USA athletic trainer Casey Smith, widely considered one of the NBA's best.
If the Mavs make a serious pitch to Oden, they will point out how Tyson Chandler's career took off after his arrival in Dallas.
Chandler was considered a major medical risk when the Mavs acquired him from the Charlotte Bobcats in a salary-dump deal in summer 2010. He had missed a total of 68 games the previous two seasons due to foot and ankle injuries, and he failed a physical that negated a trade that would have sent him from New Orleans to Oklahoma City before he was shipped to Charlotte.
Chandler ended up playing a major role in the Mavs' 2010-11 title season. When Dallas declined to give him a lucrative, long-term offer, he left for the New York Knicks, where he earned Defensive Player of the Year honors last season.
As the Mavs continue to try to replace Chandler, Oden could be an attractive, albeit risky, option at a much more affordable price.