Former Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden has agreed to sign a two-year deal with the Miami Heat as an unrestricted free agent, according to multiple reports.
Mark Titus of Grantland.com reports Oden's explanation for agreeing to sign with the two-time defending champions.
"Obviously the chance to play with the best player in the world and compete for a championship was a big selling point," Oden told me. "But more than that, what I really liked was how they thought I could really add something to their team. They've won back-to-back championships without me, so for them to pursue me as hard as they did meant a lot, especially given all that I've gone through."
"There's a lot to be excited about in joining the NBA champions, getting to play with some great players, and living in Miami. But honestly, the thing I'm most excited about is just being able to play basketball again. It's been a long and challenging road back, so just having the chance to play the game I love again has me more excited than anything else."
Marc Stein and Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com report the agreement's terms.
The deal is for a minimum of two years with a player option in the second year, sources told ESPN.com.
Oden said it was a "big deciding factor" that Heat officials made it clear to him that he "wouldn't be needed as much early in the season" as he works his way back from more than three years out of the league.
"When I had a conversation with Coach (Erik) Spoelstra and hearing how much he knew about the training stuff that I was already doing, it kind of made me feel like they know what's best for me," Oden said in a phone interview.
"I'm not going to sit here and say I'm 100 percent," Oden added. "I am moving (well) and I am feeling good, but I have a lot of work to do."
He told ESPN.com that [LeBron] James recruited him via text message, in addition to Spoelstra.
Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press also reports the agreement.
Mike Conley Sr., one of Oden's agents, said Oden has informed the Heat that he will accept their contract offer, a process that will likely be formally completed early next week. Oden will sign a contract that will pay him about $1 million this coming season. He will have a player option for the 2014-15 season.
"He just thought that it was the best fit for him, where he's at and especially for how it relates to him coming back," Conley said Friday night. "He can be on a winning team and be working his way in slowly."
Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports more from Conley.
Oden's agent, Mike Conley Sr., told The Miami Herald on Friday night that Oden turned down more money elsewhere to take a two-year deal with Miami, with the second year a player option. He will make $1 million this season and $1.1 million next season if he exercises the player option.
Conley said the Heat will determine when he takes the court in a game, and he likes the fact the Heat has no plans to rush him. Conley said Oden will be cleared to play before training camp starts, but it will be coach Erik Spoelstra's decision when he plays.
"It could be Day 1, it could be game 10, it could be game 30," Conley said. "The most important thing is the Heat doesn't need to pressure him to be ready because of the level of team they have. Some teams can tell you that but once the season starts, and the pressure hits, you never know. He felt comfortable with coach Spoelstra. Some owners and general managers say they will be patient but feeling that from the coach made an impact. Erik said all the right things. What Erik said about minutes is, ‘I don't know today. That will be determined when it's determined.' All he said is whatever it will be, will be good."
Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel reports a recent assessment of Oden by Heat president Pat Riley.
Asked recently about Oden, Riley said, "There have been a number of players that started their career missing two or three years with injuries and then all of a sudden they never had another problem again."
"He's young enough to maybe be able to get by this, and only time will tell," Riley said in his recent assessment of Oden. "But if he's healthy, obviously I think he would be able to help teams, yes."
Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports reported earlier this month that a total of eight teams were interested in Oden's services and he went on to hold a number of workouts for teams in July.
Earlier this year, Oden was linked to continued interest in an NBA comeback with the Heat and he visited with the Boston Celtics back in February. Back in December, it was reported that Oden has lost significant weight as he rehabilitates from his latest round of knee surgeries. Also in December, Blazers forward Nicolas Batum said Oden still wants to play in the NBA.
Oden said last year that he would become a gym teacher if he's not able to return to the NBA. Titus, who has known Oden since high school, wrote a lengthy piece on Oden that discussed his time in Portland. Titus discussed that interview in multiple radio interviews and podcasts. Titus also wrote a book that discussed his friendship with Oden.
Oden underwent microfracture surgery on his left knee and arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in February 2012. In May 2012, he underwent Orthokine treatment on both of his knees. Previously, Oden underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee in 2007, underwent surgery after suffering a fractured patella in his left knee in 2009, and underwent microfracture surgery in his left knee in 2010.
Oden, 25, holds career averages of 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game in 82 appearances. He hasn't played in an NBA game since December 5, 2009.
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-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter