If you're watching ESPN, as I am now here in Miami, you already know that both Brandon Roy (back spasms) and Greg Oden (foot sprain) are going to play tonight against the Heat. Ditto for LaMarcus Aldridge (neck) and Joel Przybilla (ankle). Bottom line is everyone who made the trip will be at Nate McMillan's disposal tonight.
But the way McMillan is going to use Oden will be different than how he was utilized before he was injured in the opener against the Lakers.
First off, Oden will come off the bench, with the plan being to play him between 15 to 20 minutes if necessary. When asked if coming off the bench removed some of the pressure to perform, Oden disagreed with the notion.
"There's still pressure out there and I still got to do my job out there," said Oden, "so it's no different."
McMillan noted that he wanted to ease Oden back into the lineup and that he would continue to bring the rookie center off the bench for at least "a few games" before reevaluating the rotation.
But the more significant change, at least during Oden's initial return, is the way McMillan envisions Oden's place in the offense. During training camp and at the start of the season it seemed as though running plays for Oden, allowing him to get the ball in the post, was one of the priorities. But now that the season is in full swing, the onus, according to head coach Nate McMillan, is on Oden to fit into the team, not the other way around.
"I want us to play as if he is not here," said McMillan after shootaround. "Keep playing that way. He needs to catch up to where we are and what we are doing, and not us getting in atmosphere of being relaxed and expecting him to do all these things. He needs to fit into what we are trying to do and how we are playing. We need to continue to move forward as far as what we need to do.
"He's coming back, but we got to continue to work and improve and get better and he needs to catch up to where we are."
If the team were struggling, maybe McMillan would be more concerned about calling plays for Oden, but coming off their best performance of the season on the road against Orlando, the thought seems to be that if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
"You can look and say, 'Well, the big fella' is back,'" said McMillan. "And all the sudden you're not as aggressive. You're trying to get him off or you're waiting for him. We can't do that. Brandon and LaMarcus need to stay aggressive. We need Greg to come in defensively and give us some things: rebounding, defending the basket. But he needs to fit into what we're doing."