NEW YORK -- The long road back for Greg Oden has been so overwhelmed by disappointment and setbacks that one lost day of practice wasn't going to shake his belief.
There was Oden on Wednesday, sitting in a chair with an ice pack on his left knee at a practice gym in Lower Manhattan. After a significant step two days earlier -- scrimmaging five-on-five with the two-time defending NBA champions -- the one goal was to avoid any swelling that would derail his progress.
Alas, that modest standard was not achieved. When the Heat practiced Wednesday in New York in between games in Washington and Brooklyn, the former No. 1 pick was held out due to knee swelling. But you wouldn't have grasped the significance of this event by observing Oden's demeanor or listening to his words.
"I'm fine," Oden said. "It's been three years, three-and-a-half years for me, so a little bit of swelling ... As long as there's no surgery, I'm OK. It's just taking its time. It's going to be a long season, and I'm going to get there. It's just one day."
Oden, signed as a free agent in August on a worthwhile gambit for Miami, hasn't played in an NBA game since Dec. 9, 2009 due to an excruciating array of knee calamities. The positive vibe from his five-on-five performance on Monday -- Oden successfully challenged a couple of shot attempts by four-time MVP LeBron James -- quickly washed away into the reality of how fragile Oden's comeback attempt really is.
"I was hoping it didn't [swell], but it did," Oden said. "What can I do about it? The best thing I can do is get it back down and get back out there and figure out what I can do to get out there and not have it swell again."
In addition to the immense physical obstacles before him, Oden is trying to re-adjust to what once came naturally -- playing basketball.
"I'm just trying to get my timing back; when I'm out there, that's what I think about," he said. "I'm overthinking when I'm out there. Basketball is supposed to be, just play and flow into it. And to me it's still getting back, trying to learn the plays still and figure out where I can and can't be and try and figure out my teammates. I haven't played with these guys before. That's a big challenge too. The more I'm out there, the more I'm getting my timing back and getting my legs up under me and getting back to basketball."
One precarious step at a time.
"I've definitely got bigger goals," Oden said. "But the best thing for me is to take it day by day."