MIAMI (AP) — Heat center Greg Oden is on the active roster Saturday night for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against Indiana.
Oden had been listed as inactive in each of Miami’s last seven playoff games. He was active in all four games of the opening-round series against Charlotte, but did not play.
His last playoff appearance came April 30, 2009, for Portland against Houston. But the Heat have indicated in recent days that Oden may be ready to make his Miami playoff debut.
“We brought him here for the postseason,” Heat star LeBron James said before the game. “Obviously, we knew it was going to be a very, very slow process. But if he gets the nod tonight, we all look forward to it.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he wasn’t going into the game with any preconceived plan for how to use Oden.
“The game will dictate,” Spoelstra said.
Michael Beasley and Justin Hamilton were listed as the inactives for Miami, and Spoelstra said he agonized over the decision.
“Geez, we are so fortunate right now that we have all the healthy bodies,” Spoelstra said. “Normally, you can’t necessarily expect that at this time of year. But I hate that rule. Everybody hates the rule. I look at everybody — really, virtually everybody — as a live option based on a circumstance. I could make a case for every single guy, at least for a possession.”
The thinking has long been that Miami targeted Oden last summer in large part so he could match up with Indiana’s Roy Hibbert if the Pacers and Heat — as was widely expected — met in the playoffs. Spoelstra said the Heat never viewed him as a Hibbert-stopper, but it’s not a stretch to think that the 7-foot, 273-pound Oden could challenge the Pacers’ center in ways other Miami players might not.
Asked earlier Saturday if Oden’s presence would make him change his game in any way, Hibbert didn’t offer a specific answer.
“I just want to go out there and win this game,” Hibbert said.
Oden played in 23 games for Miami this season, making six starts and averaging 2.9 points in limited action. He missed 11 straight games near the end of the regular season while dealing with illness and back issues.
His last appearance before that 11-game respite was March 26 against Indiana, when Hibbert dominated their matchup early on and Oden logged only six minutes. Spoelstra said he never allowed how that game went to enter into his thinking about how to use the former No. 1 pick.
Instead, Spoelstra pointed to how Oden played against Portland two days earlier as a promising sign.
“That’s where you have to keep perspective,” Spoelstra said. “The game before that was his best game of the season.”