It would appear that the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs don't have only the Dallas Mavericks to worry about while they continue their pursuit for free agent center Greg Oden, but now reports indicate that the New Orleans Pelicans have nudged their way into the conversation.
ESPN is reporting that there are growing indications that the Pelicans have indeed become a factor and have been booked to meet with Oden on Wednesday.
According to a source with knowledge of the situation, the Pelicans are building their pitch around the fact that going to New Orleans would enable Oden to make his comeback without the media spotlight and with no immediate pressure to perform at a high ability. This will give him time to bounce back from the knee issues, that have limited the 25-year-old to just 82 career regular season games, at his own pace.
Oden is scheduled to be in Las Vegas this week and will have face-to-face meetings with team officials from the Mavericks, Sacramento Kings and Pelicans, according to sources.
Oden was the top overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft out of Ohio State and has battled numerous knee injuries and hasn't played in the NBA since Dec. 5, 2009. He is coming off his third microfracture knee surgery in February 2012.
Oden has averaged 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 82 career games and has been working out in both Columbus and Indianapolis this past offseason.
The Cleveland Cavaliers were also rumored to be in contention, but after the signing of Andrew Bynum removed the Cavs from the list of contenders for his services. San Antonio and Miami are widely regarded as the two favorites, but Dallas continues to pursue Oden with intent while also negotiating with Milwaukee Bucks free-agent big man Samuel Dalembert.
Heat president Pat Riley recently told local reporters that he's already extended an exchange with Oden.