First full practice for Greg Oden
MIAMI -- Greg Oden went through his first full practice with the Miami Heat on Monday, clearing a significant hurdle in the former No. 1 overall pick's quest to play in an NBA game for the first time in four years.
Oden participated in some scrimmage stages of the Heat's workout at AmericanAirlines Arena as the team prepared for Tuesday's preseason road game against the Washington Wizards. Among the highlights of Oden's day was blocking a shot by LeBron James.
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It marked the most extensive on-court work Oden has done with the team since he signed with Miami in July after multiple knee surgeries forced him out of the game.
"It felt good to get out there and get some up-and-down," Oden said after Monday's practice. "You can see I'm frustrated because I'm not as back as I want to be. But it's little steps, and today was another step, getting out there and doing some five on five."
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he's been encouraged by Oden's progress over the past two months to get his weight down and improve his conditioning. Spoelstra has routinely tempered expectations on Oden but would not rule out clearing the way for him to play in one of the Heat's five remaining preseason games as a reward for his progress.
But Oden said Tuesday he doubts he'll see any action Tuesday against the Wizards or Thursday against the Brooklyn Nets.
Teammates have been impressed during the limited doses Oden has been able to practice in the first two weeks of training camp. Oden was cleared last week to participate in some four-on-four scrimmage sessions that included physical contact. He advanced through that stage without any setbacks with his knees and progressed to more work this week.
James said he didn't hesitate to drive right at Oden in Monday's practice.
"He fouled me twice today, and I scored on him, too," James said. "For him to be able to stick with it and be here -- we went five on five -- it's a testament to him keeping his composure, him believing in himself, his family believing in him. He's back where he belongs, and that's in the NBA."
Monday's scrimmage session was the closest Oden has come to playing at a full NBA pace since he sustained a second season-ending knee injury in December 2009 in a game with Portland. Oden has been limited to 82 games since the Trail Blazers drafted him first overall in 2007.
Oden said he gained confidence from Monday's workout, but will consider it a successful outing if he wakes up Tuesday without any significant swelling in his knees.
"I've got to get out there every day," Oden said. "The more I'm out there, the more I'm going to feel comfortable. The more I'm out there, the more I can manage it. I'm looking at it day by day, make sure I'm able to go out there and practice tomorrow. That's the main goal -- to wake up tomorrow and make sure the swelling is down."
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