PORTLAND, Ore. -- Catching up with the No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft ...
Oden empathized with Memphis after its loss to Kansas the other day. "I knew how they felt. I knew how it was when I sat there,'' Oden said of being in the locker room after the game. "And I waited the whole long time and I watched the
"I know you would love to be at the end of it, and we weren't. But it was still good to be seen on that. That's a memory you're always going to have.''
Oden has averaged a team-leading 25 to 30 workouts per month, according to the board kept by Portland strength and conditioning coach
Oden won't resume playing full court until September, in part because the Blazers haven't resolved the cause of his knee injury last summer. "We have to really be careful in his rehab,'' coach
Oden weighs 285 now; he played at 275 last year with Ohio State. "Where I want him next year, I told him 260,'' McMillan said. "It's just a goal, but I think lighter for him is better to start off, especially coming off surgery. The more weight that you have to carry for an 82-game schedule that you've never played -- you're going to play twice as many games as you've ever played -- you don't want to be carrying a lot of weight. That will have an effect on your ability to stay healthy.
"Once you get through your first year, now you can say I want to put on 15 to 20 pounds. But I think first you try to have speed and the ability to run and to move, more so than being a physical monster in that paint. But the main reason is that he's coming off a major surgery and we want him to try to play 82 games, and the more weight you carry makes it harder for anybody.''
His shooting has improved too. "Because that's basically all I can do,'' Oden said. "So I have the best standing jump shot you've ever seen, I'll tell you that.''
"Greg's probably going to have 100 more this time next year,'' Townsend said. "I'll probably sit him down before the season next year to try to get him to commit to doing 83 percent, because
Oden was viewed by some as a limited scorer, but the Blazers have bigger ideas. "He's got very soft hands, a very soft touch,'' Townsend said. "You can throw it to him and he can catch it. Not many guys his size can do that.''
The league's youngest team has already helped ease Oden's transition by nearing a .500 season in his absence, which reduces the pressure on Oden to transform the franchise. It's not like he's going to come in and ruin a good thing, either.
"He's really an easy guy to integrate, the way he plays,'' Roy said. "He's a great shot-blocker, a great defender, and he lets offense come to him. Whenever he's healthy and ready to come back, we can put him in real smooth.''
They Blazers also learned that he wants to be part of the team rather than its master. "Every game when he travels with us, he's in the tunnel high-fiving everybody,'' Medina said. "It's not like it's all about him. If you didn't know any better, he's the 15th guy. He comes and does whatever you ask him to do. He's very coachable, he's on time, and it's rare to see that in the NBA -- especially with high-profile guys. A lot of times it goes to their head.
"Here's the No. 1 pick and every game at halftime the team's in the locker room and he's making ice bags with the ball boys. Not because somebody told him to do it. Just because he does it. How many times is the No. 1 pick doing that?''
In Tuesday's game against the Lakers, Oden could be seen during a timeout wearing a toy helmet and firing plastic mini basketballs out of a compressed drum into the crowd. When Oden returned to the huddle, point guard
"He was looking at me like, 'Man, don't talk to me again,' " Oden said. "It was probably because of the hard hat.''
Lucas has been showing Oden film of centers to emulate. "I compare him a lot to the great
Next year the Blazers will add Oden and their lottery pick. They also are expected to welcome Spanish guard
"Who do you want to be?'' McMillan said, referring to Oden. "Think about what you want to be, and then become it. Because it's important for you when you step out there that everyone knows -- the league, the officials, your teammates -- who you want to become. Then do it. Become it.''
This is one of those times when an interview turns into a pep talk, so ambitious is the coach to start coaching.
"Because you have the potential to be a Hall of Famer,'' McMillan said. "Now you're going to have to become that. Some of us can say that, but we're just saying it. With your potential, with your makeup at such a young age, yeah, you could be that.''
"I called him and I said, 'OK, here's the good news, I'm ecstatic that you played. The bad news is you can't do it again,' " Pritchard said.
"I just wanted to get out there, I haven't been out there in so long,'' Oden said. "But the thing was, it wasn't as deep as people made it to be. It was a jog, a couple of jump shots, maybe one or two dunks. It wasn't that big of a deal. At least not to me.''
It was a small gesture of appreciation to a player whose talent came naturally. The injury has shifted his perspective, because he isn't entitled to be a star any longer. He is going to have to work for it. If nothing else, this lost season has answered the question of whether Oden will work hard to fulfill his potential.
The Bucks have created a lot of gossip around the league, as teams do when they're looking for a new coach or GM. The impression I get from several executives is that it's going to be hard to win so long as owner Sen.
It's hard enough to compete with the likes of Detroit's
"It's because he's left-handed,'' Harris said.
If the reports are true that Pistons vice president
"My understanding is that the senator has people around him who have the power to make decisions but are not held accountable for those decisions,'' says a rival Eastern conference executive.
P.S. The Bucks won't be moving to Seattle.
The majority of each team's revenue comes from ticket sales. "I'm going to guess that tickets account for 55 to 60 percent for each team,'' a team executive said.
Each team started the season with $10 million from the national TV contracts. More revenue comes from local TV and radio, luxury suites and merchandise sales, as well as signage in the arena and other forms of corporate sponsorship.
"When small-market teams say it's hard to compete, they're not exaggerating,'' the executive said. "The money that MSG [Madison Square Garden] makes from its local TV contract with the Knicks blows away what most teams get. That's why they [the Knicks] don't care about spending money, while the rest of us are counting pennies. That's why we have to have a salary cap, because a team in a small market will never be on the same level of earnings as the Knicks or Lakers.''
It depends on which teams have the cap space. The dysfunctional Hawks are not an attractive franchise for a max player who wants to contend for the championship. On the other hand, a max free agent could sign with the Blazers in 2009 with the realistic goal of reaching the NBA Finals within three years.
If the player has a good agent, he'll know which teams are in position to bid for him and whether he's likely to receive an offer from the team of his choice. It's obviously against league rules for rival teams to negotiate with pending free agents, but there are all kinds of back-channel means of communication through intermediaries, and everybody in the league engages in it.
Only 26 players have been league MVP.
The Euroleague Final Four is the best event in basketball, a single-game knockout competition played at a much higher level than the NCAAs with even more passionate fans. The semifinalists were established this week for the Final Four in Madrid on May 2-4. Montepaschi Siena of Italy will meet Maccabi Elite of Israel, and Tau Ceramica of Spain will play CSKA Moscow.
"He is an up-and-down player,'' an NBA scout said of Splitter. "As good as he was in Game 3, he was disappointing in Game 2. He has had a good season without being flashy or spectacular. He hasn't put together amazing numbers, but he does the job as a solid contributor.''
Splitter has averaged 13.9 points and 5.2 rebounds in 22.3 minutes in the Euroleague this season.
Attilio Messina died Thursday. He was 42. The month ahead will be very difficult for Coach Messina and his team.
Bowen is a small forward offensively, but he often shuts down the top scorer in the backcourt, and it would be wrong to put forth a team like this without including Garnett, Battier and Bowen. The hardest position to choose each year is point guard, so I sought the advice of an NBA coach, a team executive with NBA personnel duties and an advance scout. The first two voted for Kidd, while the scout rated Deron Williams slightly ahead of Kidd. The executive noted that Kidd often is assigned to defend the superior backcourt scorer, including shooting guards. The coach said Kidd is able to adapt to quicker point guards by giving them space and playing the angles. Kidd's talent for rebounding is another asset defensively.