Greg Oden practices with Heat

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas -- Tuesday was a bit surreal for Miami Heat center Greg Oden.

Not only was he going through his first NBA practice in four years, but it was taking place in the middle of a hotel ballroom on a tropical island.

The Heat opened training camp with a standard, defensive drill-oriented workout in a warehouse-like conference center at the Atlantis Resort. Oden took part in about half of the practice, but that still was a significant step forward as he attempts a long-shot comeback after not playing since December 2009 because of chronic knee problems.

"It felt good just being out there," Oden said. "It's the first time in awhile, I'm happy I got it completed. They had to pull me off the floor. But I've got to take steps."

By the time his teammates were scrimmaging at the end of their first of two practices of the day, Oden was sitting on a chair courtside with ice on both knees.

The Heat's training staff has not cleared Oden for contact, and that is still probably some time off. The team is in no rush to get Oden on the floor, and if there is a timetable to have him in a real game, no one is talking publicly about it.

"It's step by step, practice by practice, minute by minute," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "It was a big bonus to have him out there. We'll meet with the trainers and see how he reacts and go from there."

The Heat have been moving toward this day for nearly nine months, first meeting with Oden during last season and then being one of a handful of teams to court him over the summer. They eventually offered him a one-year guaranteed contract for a little less than $900,000, with the expectation that if he can help in a handful of important games, it'll be worth it.

With that in mind, the most important thing that can happen in October is for Oden to avoid any setbacks. On that front, Day 1 was a victory.

"We'll keep going," Oden said. "Little by little."