MIAMI (AP) -Greg Oden returned the Portland Trail Blazers for Wednesday night's matchup with the Miami Heat, following a six-game absence because of a sprained right foot sustained in the season opener.
The hard-luck center was the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NBA draft, then missed all of last season following knee surgery and only managed to play 13 minutes against the Los Angeles Lakers in his long-awaited debut last month. He was not in the Blazers' starting lineup Wednesday, but was in uniform for the first time since his latest injury.
``Feels good. I'm ready. I'm excited,'' the 19-year-old Oden said after Wednesday's pregame shootaround practice, which served as the final test to see if his foot was ready for a return. ``I'll hopefully play the full game tonight.''
``We are adding him to what we're already doing and have to fit him into the things we're doing, make those adjustments again,'' Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. ``He's a part of what we want to take advantage of on both ends of the floor, offensively and defensively, and having him back in the lineup will be somewhat of an adjustment. So we'll try to work him in slowly.''
Joel Przybilla remained as Portland's starting center Wednesday night.
Oden went through a full practice Tuesday, then the midday shootaround, after which he pronounced himself fit to play. He also did some shooting about 90 minutes before tipoff Wednesday, with no problems.
``We're different with him because we have a low-post presence,'' said Blazers guard Brandon Roy, the 2007 rookie of the year, who also was in Wednesday's lineup despite a bout of back spasms earlier this week. ``Without Greg, we're a perimeter-oriented team. We take a lot of jump shots. With Greg, we've kind of got that low-post presence. He's so strong.''
For whatever reason, Oden seems to have unfortunate luck on the injury front.
He missed the start of his lone season at Ohio State after needing surgery on his right wrist, missed the bulk of the 2007 NBA summer league season with tonsillitis, and even a slightly sprained ankle this year in training camp was a cause for concern.
``It's kind of tough for a player who's been sitting out a whole year. It's tough,'' said Heat guard Daequan Cook, who was Oden's teammate at Ohio State. ``We've been talking. We hung out these last few days and he looked a lot better, a lot healthier, a lot stronger. I'm looking forward to finally seeing him get a chance to play face-to-face.''
Cook said he doesn't think it will take Oden long to regain the form that made him one of the most dominant college players two years ago.
``It's nothing but getting back to the flow and getting back to the groove of the game you're used to playing,'' Cook said. ``It's going to take some time. You can't just come straight out scoring 30 and 10. It's a long season. You're going to get your opportunities and he's the type of player who's going to take advantage of the opportunities.''
After a year-plus of injury issues, Oden is clearly hoping the worst is over.
``I'm anxious to be back out there,'' Oden said. ``There's really no other words for it.''
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