MIAMI -- There was a time Greg Oden could not wait to watch sports highlights on television.
He recalls flipping the channel to ESPN just so he could catch up on the previous night's NBA or NHL clips. And then something changed. He noticed the shows became less about the plays made on the field. No, the focus now is more on talking heads, offering their opinions.
It became too much to watch, especially for someone with a past like Oden's.
"I try not to watch any sports (shows) now," Oden said. "I just try to leave that alone."
Oden is in the midst of reviving his career with the Miami Heat. Injuries filled his early NBA years, often turning him into a punch line for sports pundits. With each slam dunk, he is becoming less of a joke. He had five points and season-highs in rebounds (five) and minutes (10) in Thursday's victory against the Los Angeles Lakers.
For Oden, it's the first step back to basketball normalcy after injuries took away more than four years of his career. He is unable to remember the last time an interview did not include questions about his health.
"I haven't had one in the NBA," Oden said. "As soon as I got in, I got hurt. Injuries are going to come with it for me. I've had so many of them. I don't mind it."
But what if the questions were more about his play on the court? Or about him moving forward instead looking back? Only then will Oden realize he's overcome the struggles of various knee injuries that threaten his career.
"Who wouldn't want that," Oden said. "But I can't change the past."
He can change the Heat's future.
Oden was essentially acquired for the Eastern Conference finals. That's when Miami is expected to face the Indiana Pacers, with a berth in the NBA Finals on the line. He would match up against Pacers center Roy Hibbert, who basically made a name for himself against the small-ball Heat last season.
"I'm a big guy," Oden said. "I'm the biggest guy on this team. ... I've got to get myself better because when we do play them, (Hibbert) is a load."
Granted, Oden wasn't predicting a conference finals date with the Pacers. The teams play twice more this season. Never would Oden think too far ahead when he is approaching this with a daily attitude. It is why the first thing coach Erik Spoelstra said to Oden after his breakthrough performance was, "I'll see you tomorrow."
That was Spoelstra's way of telling the media they will evaluate his health every day. The expectations-free atmosphere has made it easier for Oden to succeed. No longer is he expected to play like the 2007 No. 1 draft pick.
His only requirement is patience. Under the Heat's plan, he could play double-figure minutes one night and then sit the next few games.
"What I've been through, I've got nothing but patience now," Oden said. "It was a tough, long road. After four years, what's a couple of games (sitting out)."
Aside from staying healthy, timing is the only remaining hurdle for Oden. He missed a dunk against the Lakers. He missed a few rebounds because of jumping too soon. All are plays he expects to make once he becomes fully comfortable.
"When you look at the glass half full, you see him being in the right spots," Spoelstra said. "That's what you can't teach in this game. It's just a matter of time before those plays are made and we don't have anybody else on our roster who can make those type of plays."
Added LeBron James: "He was just a little out of rhythm but that's OK. He's very active. The great thing that I love seeing is when he jumps and he lands and he runs back on defense."
Oden said he repeatedly thanks the Heat organization for giving him another opportunity because last year around this time he was "sitting at home." He can repay the team by becoming the inside presence it has lacked.
"It's a good system and I'm starting to learn it," Oden said. "The more I'm on the court, the more I'm getting more comfortable with it. Everything is going to start falling into place."
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