Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
It's probably a little irresponsible to call Greg Oden a "momentum shifter." But the big man's first regular season action since 2009 provided the only noticeable energy boost in the Miami Heat's 114-97 loss to the Washington Wizards on Wednesday.
At the 6:03 mark in the second quarter, Oden entered an NBA game that actually mattered.
It took him 15 seconds to snatch his first rebound. It took 17 ticks for his first dunk.
His second-quarter stint lasted just five minutes, but Oden added another dunk, a couple of rebounds and made a pair of foul shots before exiting. It's not often you see an entire bench rise as one despite being down by 30 points, but Oden's debut elicited that kind of excited response from the Heat reserves.
When the second half tipped off, Oden was in the starting lineup. He saw just three minutes, but Miami went on a 24-4 run that trimmed a bloated Wizards lead to just nine points. Granted, he didn't have much to do with the surge. But on a night when Miami just didn't have any sort of spark, Oden provided the closest thing to it.
Nobody can say how long his fragile frame will hold up. Nothing's promised.
The point, though, is that Oden actually mattered in an NBA game, albeit in a small way. For an awfully long time, it didn't seem like we'd ever be able to say that.
ESPN's Tom Haberstroh tweeted: "Another dunk for Oden. I can't even comprehend this. Dude hasn't played in four years."
Ultimately, Miami has some increasingly serious problems that Oden won't fix. This was its third loss in a row, Ray Allen can't find his stroke and the entire team is suffering from some obvious malaise.
Still, on this night, Oden's comeback mattered more than anything—if only because of the fact that it seemed so impossible for so long.