WASHINGTON (AP) — Greg Oden played in his first NBA regular-season game in more than four years Wednesday night, coming off the bench in the second quarter of the Miami Heat's game against the Washington Wizards.
Wearing No. 20 and with both knees heavily wrapped, Oden entered with 6:03 remaining in the first half and made an immediate impact: He had an offensive rebound, a dunk and a foul in his first 30 seconds.
By halftime, Oden had two dunks, two free throws and a pair of rebounds. The Heat were getting blown out when he stepped on the floor, but he helped trim a 34-point deficit to 21 at halftime.
Oden started the second half — he said it was to keep him from getting stiff — and played four more minutes before sitting for good. His final line: eight minutes, six points, two rebounds, 2 for 3 from the field and 2 for 2 from the free-throw line in a 114-97 loss.
"I had no idea he was playing, actually, until he was getting dressed and I saw he had his knee brace on," teammate LeBron James said. "I was like, 'Oh, you active?' And he was like, 'Yeah,' so I was very excited. ... Obviously in a short amount of minutes tonight he was pretty good for us."
Oden's last appearance in a regular-season game was Dec. 5, 2009, when he fractured his left kneecap playing for the Portland Trail Blazers against the Houston Rockets. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft also missed what would have been his rookie year because of a right knee injury. He has had three microfracture surgeries on his knees.
"He's been working very diligently," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said before the game. "It's been all part of the plan. He's made great progress. He's getting stronger. He's getting healthier. He's getting his core right. Everything without skipping steps. We're very patient with him."
Oden signed with the Heat last summer as a low-risk investment, accepting a deal that pays him about $1 million this season with a player option for next season. He made a brief appearance in one preseason game but had been inactive for every regular season game before Wednesday.
Oden said the Heat have "come up with something to keep me playing, not just to get me out there and get injured."
"So this is the plan and it's got me this far," he said. "It got me in the game."
Oden was active on a night when the Heat were without forward Chris Andersen. Spoelstra said Andersen "landed awkwardly on his knee" but did not elaborate. Also not in uniform was guard Mario Chalmers, who missed his fourth consecutive game with a strained right Achilles.
Shane Battier was in the starting lineup after missing five games with a strained left quadriceps. Also returning was Dwyane Wade, back after resting his sore knees for one game when the Heat lost to Brooklyn on Friday.
The Heat acquired guard Toney Douglas from the Golden State Warriors in a three-team trade on Wednesday, but he won't be available until he completes his physical. Miami shipped seldom-used center Joel Anthony to the Boston Celtics.
All those moving parts left room for Oden.
"Today we had an open spot, so I really was just gonna suit him up," Spoelstra said, "and then if I had a moment to put him in for a couple minutes I would, but otherwise he was just going to be there. But as soon as I went down 30, might as well just try to reward him for the work that he's put in."
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