The down, up, down arc of Greg Oden

MIAMI

   The smiles from Greg Oden were limited, about as limited as his minutes.

   There was joy after the Jan. 15 season debut in Washington, after more than four seasons away from the game due to a series of debilitating injuries.

    A month later, he appeared to relish his time on stage at Battioke, joining then-teammate Shane Battier and actor Ken Jeong in the Backstreet Boys' I Want It That Way at Battier's karaoke charity event in Miami Beach.

    And in June, according to one insider, there was a look of palpable liberation inside the locker room at AmericanAirlines Arena as the Miami Heat packed up for the season.

    On the court? Stoicism.

    A year ago, on Aug. 10, 2013, the hulking center spoke of the promise of his return to the NBA, of signing on with the two-time defending champion Heat after almost four years out of the game.

   "I'm excited," he said, actually sounding that way.

   By media day, he was bailing on interviews. For the first half of the season, he was kept in a tight, preplanned cocoon of rehabilitation. But when he did make it onto the court, it might as well have been the Eddy Curry experiment, circa 2011-12.

   At that's fine, because that's what 15th roster spots are for, to take risks, especially when it comes to big men who not too long ago loomed large.

   Coach Erik Spoelstra, to the end, deflected questions about whether Oden had shown enough between his limited minutes and behind-closed-doors practice sessions.

    "Greg Oden," Spoelstra said as the NBA Finals wound down, "is one of the biggest success stories in this league, and unfortunately people are only judging him by the fact of how many minutes he plays."

    Ultimately, though, that's what has to matter.

   In the immediate wake of the season, Pat Riley held out hope.

   "We talked about it and we know him physically better than anybody else would," he said heading into free agency, where Oden still resides. "I don't know what’s going to happen with Greg. Next year we would raise protocol on him. You don't want to walk away from that kind of a talent."

   Riley was less effusive a month later, "He's still on our board. We are going to give Greg some thought."

  A year ago, the Heat had to woo Oden, fight off other speculators, Spoelstra's personal plea closing the deal over dinner at Chili's.

   Now it appears what Spoelstra had termed a chapter of hope has turned into something else. It is likely the Heat would have moved on anyway.

   What is alleged to have happened on Aug. 7 in Lawrence, Indiana, what Oden has acknowledged being part of in a police report, moves this far beyond a basketball story. The probable-cause affidavit for the felony charge of "battery resulting in serious bodily injury" against Oden is chilling, including an officer's statement on Oden's scuffle with Oden's former girlfriend when Oden allegedly "punched her with a closed right fist three times," stopping only, "when he saw the blood on her face."

   According to court documents, the victim required three stitches between her eyebrows, her left eye was nearly swollen shut and a nasal bone fracture must be straightened and set. Oden that night allegedly had been drinking, which he acknowledged as a personal demon during his time away from the game. This no longer has been a year of redemption.

    In the wake of Ray Rice's lenient discipline from the NFL after his domestic-abuse incident and the ensuing fallout, more than a GPS monitoring device stands between Oden and an NBA return.

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