News the Miami Heat signed free agent center Greg Oden last week excited All-Star Dwayne Wade. Although there are questions around Oden's health, Wade believes the 7-footer can be an integral part of the Heat's bid this season for a third straight NBA championship.
"I think it's great," Wade told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. "Greg has done a good job of trying to get his body back. He's 25 years old. He wants to play the game of basketball at a high level, like he knows he's capable of. And he's been snake-bitten a little bit, and I think he's done a good job of taking time off and trying to get healthy."
One reason Oden signed with Miami was because the team won't immediately need him on the court. As Oden continues to rehab from three microfracture knee surgeries, the Heat and its medical staff plan to slowly phase the 25-year-old back into basketball.
Wade, who has worked to overcome his own nagging knee injuries, vouched for the team's medical staff.
"He's come to the right place," he said. "They will do everything in their power to make sure that he's able to be on the court and be effective. They're doing a good job. Hopefully he doesn't rush it. We take him step by step."
There isn't a timetable for Oden's return. He participated in three consecutive full court, 4-on-4 practices last week and didn't appear to suffer any setbacks, Sports Illustrated reported. Still, having not played in an NBA game since December 2009, the injury-plagued center is a long way from returning to the court.
"I know it's going to be a long process," he told The Sun Sentinel last week. "... (At first) it'll be a lot of agility, jumping, and some court work, and a lot more cardio, just trying to get ready and trying to maintain ... (the Heat) want to get to know my body."
Oden went on to say he'd be happy just playing in games again and staying healthy. While the 2007 No. 1 pick has tapered his expectations, Wade believes Oden can be huge for the team.
"He can be one of those Shane Battier-Ray Allen summers, when we sign a guy, or Birdman, as well," Wade said. "We sign a guy that a lot of people weren't really looking at to be a big part of something and he can become a big of what we're trying to do."