NEW YORK — More than 30 reporters surrounded LeBron James in the visiting locker room at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, sampling his opinions on a variety of subjects.
In the opposite corner, Greg Oden sat quietly, alone.
And yet, the Heat center seems to be front and center when it comes to the concerns of the Miami Heat's chief Eastern Conference competition. Further, his continued progress, after missing more than four seasons due to several knee surgeries, likely played a prominent role in Saturday's most notable transaction.
The Heat might have gone harder after Andrew Bynum had Oden not shown so many positive signs of late, playing 42 minutes in the Heat's last eight games entering Saturday. Instead, the Indiana Pacers signed the former Laker, 76er and Cavalier for $1 million for the duration of the season, hoping that he'll get with their program and give them another productive backup behind Roy Hibbert.
After the Heat lost in Indianapolis on Dec. 10, Hibbert spoke of his eagerness to resume a collegiate rivalry with Oden. They have only faced each other once as pros, on March 18, 2009, when Hibbert had 14 points and four rebounds for Indiana and Oden had four points and seven rebounds (in just 12 minutes) for Portland.
Oden has faced Bynum three times, when Bynum was a Laker, with Oden averaging 6.7 points and 5.0 rebounds in 23.7 minutes and Bynum averaging 8.3 points and 6.3 points in 31.0 minutes.
"It was a long time ago," Oden said, smiling.
Of course it was.
Everything with Oden was a long time ago.
The last meeting was Apr. 10, 2009.
"Nothing really stands out," Oden said.
Does he think the Pacers got Bynum, at least in part with him in mind?
"I think they got a lot of people in mind," Oden said. "You know, to get to where this team has been, you've got to pass a lot of people. It's not just us. I think they're just adding weapons, to try to help themselves. When that time comes, it's a hard road. You know, I've never been through it before, so it's going to be hard for me also."
And the Pacers like to play big.
"And hey, they just added size," Oden said.
With that, the Indianapolis native smiled again, with not much more to say.
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