Celtics

Ainge has 'good conversation' with Greg Oden

705408.jpg

Ainge has 'good conversation' with Greg Oden

BOSTON Danny Ainge has made no secret about his focus these days shifting between preparing for the present-day struggles of the Boston Celtics, while planning for the future.

Saturday's visit with former No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden falls into the latter category.

Oden, who has had multiple knee injuries since being taken with the top pick in the 2007 NBA draft, was in town on Saturday to meet with the C's.

"It was just a chance to get to know Greg a little better," Ainge, president of basketball operations, told CSNNE.com on Saturday. "We meet with free agents all the time."

While that may be true, few come with as much uncertainty as Oden who hasn't played since 2009 due to injuries to both knees with each requiring micro-fracture surgery.

That said, it hasn't slowed down the number of teams - the C's included - that have expressed interest in adding the 7-foot-1 center to their roster.

But all teams interested know that his availability will not be until the 2013-2014 season, and even that isn't a given.

For Ainge, Saturday wasn't so much about Oden the basketball player, but rather Oden the player and whether he could be the type of player that could fit in with the Celtics culture.

"It was a good conversation," said Ainge, who added that no contract offer was made to Oden. "When he has been healthy, he has been a good player in our league. Like I said, this was just a chance for us to get to know him better. That's all."

With no shot of Oden helping address their most immediate need - more size - there's still a definite need for the Celtics to add a big man for next season.

Kevin Garnett and Fab Melo are the only centers under contract for the 2013-2014 season. And with Garnett likely to give some thought to retirement this summer, the Celtics will surely look to add at least one center during the offseason.

And while it's way too early to say Oden is the guy, the C's are at the very least in the mix for his services.

Before an Ohio State basketball game last month, the former Buckeye All-American told the Associated Press that he was rehabbing while taking classes in Columbus, Ohio.

"I don't know when, but I'm taking this year off. I'll play next year," he told the Associated Press.

There have been multiple reports indicating that Oden was eyeing a return to Cleveland or Miami.

However, he said he's not leaning towards any one team in particular right now.

"Right now I'm not worrying about where," Oden told The AP. "I'm only worried about my knee."

Oden spent his first five NBA seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers who selected him with the No. 1 overall pick and in doing so, passed on perennial all-star Kevin Durant.

Injuries limited Oden to just 82 games over five seasons before the Blazers waived him in March. With Portland, Oden averaged 9.2 points and 7.3 rebounds in addition to 1.4 blocks per game.

His injury-prone professional career came on the heels of an impressive year at Ohio State, his lone season as a Buckeye. Oden was instrumental in leading the Buckeyes to the 2007 NCAA Final Four.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

stream-celtics-heat.jpg

WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Heat in Miami. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: Will Celtics be drained by emotional comeback win Monday in Dallas?

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Celtics-Heat preview: Will Celts be drained by emotional win in Dallas?

usatsi_10375870.jpg

Celtics-Heat preview: Will Celts be drained by emotional win in Dallas?

The Boston Celtics remain a team whose collective talents are far more valuable than their individual abilities.

But there are going to be nights when someone has to shoulder a larger burden of the team in order to win. More often than not, that “one” will likely be No. 11, Kyrie Irving. 

We saw in Dallas what can happen when Irving feels he has little choice but to put the team on his back and carry them to victory. 

The Celtics were desperate for a spark against the Mavericks and found it in Irving, who scored 47 points in leading the Celtics to a come-from-behind 110-102 overtime win. 

It remains to be seen if the Celtics will require a similar Herculean effort tonight when they take the Miami Heat with a chance to extend their winning streak to 17 straight. 

This team isn’t one to dwell on success in the past, even if the past was just 24 hours ago. But there’s no getting around how what happened on Monday night might impact what we see against the Heat. 

Boston expended a tremendous amount of energy in rallying from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter at Dallas, the kind of effort that may be difficult to replicate against a Miami team that you can count on to play hard from the opening tip to the final horn. 

Irving’s performance was one of the rare instances this season when Boston clearly could not have won without their top scorer having a big game. 

“When we needed it most, he made big shot after big shot,” said Al Horford. “He had such good rhythm, I was thinking, ‘just let him keep it going.’ He just kept being aggressive, taking really good shots. He recognized he needed to be extra aggressive, especially at the end and score the ball for us.”

Scoring could potentially be at a premium against Miami which allows 102.5 points per game which ranks ninth in the league in fewest points allowed. Also, the Heat will test Boston’s perimeter defenders. Miami comes into tonight’s game averaging 11.1 made 3-pointers per game which ranks ninth in the NBA. 

The Heat are led by Goran Dragic who is averaging team highs in scoring (18.3 points) and assists (4.7) this season. 

These two squared off earlier this season in Miami with the Celtics coming away with a 96-90 win as Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum led the way with 24 and 20 points, respectively. In that game, the Heat were without starting center Hassan Whiteside, who will be in the lineup tonight as the Heat try to bounce back after losing three of its last four games.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE