Greg Oden Makes Progress, but Miami Heat Can Help Him Stay Patient
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All NBA coaches should experience such agitation.
While other coaches are still scouring their rosters, trying to find eight or nine legitimate players to fill out a passable rotation, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is facing daily questions about how he will find minutes for 14 proven veterans, nine of whom were prominently featured during last season's 27-game winning streak and the championship run.
And now, as the Heat get more good news—Greg Oden's incremental additions to his workload—Spoelstra is frequently getting asked about how he'll find a fit for a 15th.
Spoelstra quickly tires of such queries, especially when he isn't particularly eager to offer complete answers, and it hasn't taken long for him to grow weary of the Oden Watch.
As Spoelstra said following Sunday's practice, "There's no update. He was able to do some work today, but no new update, no. There won't be a new update. I know there's a lot of interest. He'll continue to make steps forward."
Monday, there was another, with Oden participating in a five-on-five full-court scrimmage that was closed to the media. Players, including LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, told reporters that they were encouraged by Oden's work during the session. And Spoelstra again pumped the brakes.
Expect Spoelstra to continue taking that approach, even if Oden does find his way into one of the final three preseason games—Saturday at home against the San Antonio Spurs, next Wednesday in New Orleans against the Pelicans or next Friday in Miami against the Brooklyn Nets.
The team's strategy is to try to quiet the noise from the outside so it doesn't seep into Oden's psyche. He chose Miami largely because he knew the Heat were positioned to let him proceed at his own pace to come back after major knee surgeries since last playing in an NBA game in 2009. If he tries to rush back to full health, he'll run more risks.
And his teammates can help by winning early in the season.
If they do that, there will be less focus on when Oden will return, since it's not known how Spoelstra can clear minutes for him.
But if the Heat are getting bludgeoned on the boards or again start slowly on defense, there will be more calls to rip off the bubble wrap.
If Oden becomes a necessity rather than a luxury, his progress becomes a bigger storyline.
And Spoelstra gets a bigger headache.
Ethan Skolnick covers the Miami Heat for Bleacher Report.
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