Pat Riley radiated happiness for Greg Oden in the final minutes of the game. Standing in the corridor of the arena’s bowl, Riley told The Herald: “It was really great to see, his first game since 2009. It was just a really great confidence builder for him. I just got a text from Bill Duffy (sports agent), and that dunk in his first minute…perfect.”
Then Riley offered some perspective: “He’s not in shape yet but he’s getting there. We just have to keep him healthy.”
Greg Oden was still smiling in the post-game locker room at New Orleans Arena after his debut with the Heat on Wednesday.
“In December it will be four years, so four minutes is enough for me,” Oden said. “As long as I got out there and I walked off and I'm healthy that's all that matters.”
LeBron James led a brief but poignant post-game celebration for Oden, whose locker was next to James’ in the visiting locker room.
“I’m going to have to take a toast for him, man,” James said. “I ain’t no drinker but I might have to take a shot for him. It was an absolutely great moment.”
More from LeBron:
“I have no idea what my feeling would be like after being away from the game for three years, and it was like a proud moment. I was like so excited for him when he got out on the court and checked in and his first basket he gets a dunk. Can you write it any better? And obviously he’s not where he wants to be but the process is going great and I was extremely happy for him and I was so happy for him I was like a big brother seeing his little brother succeed again. It was great. It was a great moment.”
What’s next for Oden?
“Next step for me is coming in tomorrow and making sure everything is taken care of with my legs and making sure it gets back to where it feels good,” Oden said. “And then I'll be out there another game."
Shane Battier noted how quickly the team has accepted Oden as a “brother.”
“Greg hasn’t been a part of this team very long, but we consider him a brother and we all want it really badly for him,” Battier said. “He’s a really good teammate and he’s had really poor luck in his career, and for him to come out of semi-retirement and play four minutes tonight, it’s amazing stuff.
“And let’s not get ahead of ourselves. He still has a long way to go the road to recovery but as a teammate and a friend it was tremendous to see him out there tonight.”
Battier on Oden’s progression in practice:
“Obviously the speed of the game is probably the toughest thing to recoup after being gone for three years, but he’s picking it up and we don’t have a very simple system to pick up. It’s pretty complex, but he has done a pretty good job.”
Chris Bosh fed Oden the assist on his first basket, which fittingly was a dunk: “I can only imagine being away from basketball for a long time. I know he has wanted to play for a long time, but to finally get out there, he has handled everything well and we remind him daily that we’re going to need him. So, just to see him take that first step forward is huge.”
Bosh on Oden’s dunk: “It shows you how powerful and talented he is. His first field goal is a dunk.”
Bosh on Oden’s role: “He’s going to be in that five position where he just has to make quick reads and as time goes on it just takes trail and error, trail and error and I make sure I told him during camp, he was kind of hard on himself, I was like, ‘Look, you haven’t played in a very long time and we move fast. We move faster than usual, so don’t worry about that. There’s going to be a huge learning curve. Just stick with it and you’ll be fine.’ And he has taken everything in stride and he has done pretty well.”