Greg Oden Expected to Start vs. Portland Trail Blazers on March 24

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistMarch 23, 2014

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The next time the Portland Trail Blazers play, Greg Oden will be starting—just not for them.

According to the Miami Heat's game notes, Oden will start when the reigning NBA champions host the Blazers on Monday, March 24, in what will be a game highlighted by what-could-have-beens.

ESPN's Tom Haberstroh confirmed that Oden will indeed get his fifth start of the season.

"It's a game we need to win," Oden said, per Haberstroh. "It's just about this team and us getting a win right now."

Come on, Greg. It's most definitely about more than just getting a win.

Portland selected Oden with the first overall pick in the 2007 draft. As The Oregonian's Joe Freeman reminds us, his arrival was supposed to be the start of something special for the Blazers, but things quickly turned tragic:

The Blazers selected Oden with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2007 NBA Draft, causing giddy fans to storm the court during a draft party at what was then called the Rose Garden. His selection was supposed to cement the Blazers as an NBA powerhouse, creating the tantalizing possibility of a Big Three featuring Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Oden, and stimulating visions of multiple NBA championships.

But you know how that ended. Oden would play just 82 career games over five seasons with the Blazers as injuries — including five on his knees — stained his tenure in Portland and sabotaged his career. He averaged 9.4 points and 7.3 rebounds with the Blazers.

But while he's hardly the dominant player he once was — or at least was projected to be — Oden has resurrected his career in Miami.

Indeed, Oden has managed to rebound from recurring knee injuries in Miami, where he's seldom expected to contribute, let alone buttress a dynasty.

Expectations have steadily increased in Miami, though. With each passing game, Oden becomes more of a lineup fixture. He's started in three of the Heat's last five games, providing the occasional block or thunderous dunk, offering further glimpses into the player he once could have been.

But the pain and anguish of his injury-riddled time in Portland continues to linger.

Though Oden has appeared in 20 of Miami's games, he has yet to clear 15 minutes in a single contest, in what is a stark reminder that what "once could have been" will never actually be.

For the rest of his career, Oden could find himself on a minutes cap, forever a game-time decision on the tail end of back-to-backs.

Blazers fans can relate to this all too well—and more.

Portland held out hope that he could return and produce for nearly five years before giving up in 2012. Regardless of how marginal his role in Miami is, it has to be bittersweet watching him play for a contender after failing to elevate the Blazers' status for four-plus years.

Still, it's refreshing to see Oden simply playing. 

Before this season, Oden's last regular-season appearance came in December 2009. More than five years came and went before he took the court in Washington, this time as a member of the Heat.

On Monday, he'll take the court once more, against the team that first gambled on him and lost. But while he and the Blazers are liable to get nostalgic, past failures aren't important.

"The biggest victory for him is that he is available and in uniform," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Oden earlier this month, per ESPN's Michael Wallace.

Miami, Portland—it doesn't matter where he's playing. Oden is back, even though plenty of people doubted he would ever play again.

Victories for Oden don't get any bigger.