Oden Chat 6 14 07

Here's our recap of Oregonlive's Quick Chat hosted by Casey Holdahl.  As always this is a paraphrase of the questions and responses.  You can listen to the entire chat here.  

Near-certain #1 pick Greg Oden joins the chat along with Jason Quick.

Q:  What have you been doing since the lottery?

A:  I've been working out and trying to get better in the gym every day that I can be in there.  I'm bettering my game, getting ready for my workout on the 19th with the Blazers.

Q:   How do you view that visit to Portland?  Is it a chance to secure the #1 spot?

A:   It would be nice.  I'm going to go there with a possible chance for me to spend a long time in the city.  I'm going to do my best and take in everything.  Who knows?  If they choose me I'm going to be there for a while so I'm going to try and make a good impression on everybody, so they can see me for who I am.

Q:  Are you nervous at all?  You're a consensus #1 pick but it's still a new place and an interview and a huge part of your future.

A:  I'm not nervous...well maybe a little bit.  When Josh McRoberts told me they had a hard workout I got a little scared.  You hear those stories about some workouts being really hard.  I'm a little bit nervous but I'm going to go in there and play my game.  When I'm on the court and when I'm around people I'm going to be myself.  They're going to pick who they feel is a good guy and who fits them.  But all I can do is be myself and hope that I fit with them and be the #1 pick.

Q:  Where have you noticed your recovery affecting or improving your game?

A:  It's improved my game because now I can use my left hand.  I use my left hand a lot more because I have to.  Before I really didn't need to.  My right hand is better.  This has allowed me to expand my game to other things I didn't really concentrate on.

Q:  What are some of those things?

A:  Getting my jump shot back.  Using my right hand.  Expanding my game beyond post moves...doing other stuff too.

Q:  How would you rate your hand right now?  80%?  90%?

A:  100%?

Q:  Some people say you didn't really dominate in college or weren't as aggressive as you could be.  Was that because of the wrist?  

A:  I don't think I got the chance to be at my full potential.  As much as I tried to act like it didn't affect me my wrist did so much.  Just regular layups...when I first came back I couldn't hit a regular right-handed layup.  It was a struggle to dunk.  I just couldn't do stuff.  It wasn't really like I couldn't play I just couldn't do it.  As the year went on I was able to do more and more stuff like shoot right-handed free throws or shoot the hook shot more comfortably.  At the beginning of the year though I just couldn't do it.  It affected me.

Q:  Was there ever a time you were worried you wouldn't make it all the way back?

A:  True story:  I asked coach Motta to red-shirt me when I first hurt my wrist.

Q:  Why?  

A:  I didn't know what the timetable was going to be for it.  When I first found out I said, "Coach, I might need to red-shirt."  He just laughed at me.  It was really just I didn't know.  But I thought about it.  When I figured out the timetable and it was half a season I knew I could do that and still work on my game.

Q:   Has your physique changed much in the last few months?  Some people say you look bigger.

A:  There was a point that I got sick and couldn't eat much and I got really skinny.  People noticed.  Just recently I've been eating everything in sight and trying to gain my weight back.  Saying I'm bigger is a compliment for me.  I like it!

Q:  What will you miss most about Ohio State?

A:  Just the interaction with the students.  Being able to go out and be a regular student is something I loved doing.  I had a lot of fun.  Especially at Ohio State with so many people...it was crazy.  I loved every second there.

Q:  Did it leave a bad taste in your mouth losing the championship game?  Are you anxious to get back on the court to get rid of those feelings?

A:  Yeah...it was a bad feeling.  It would have been nice.  We came a long way from the beginning of the year not meshing well to by the end of the season guys stepping up.  If we would have won it would have been great.  That was our goal from the start.  I'm anxious to get back on the court and get a game under my belt.  I haven't played in a regular game for so long.  Still having that game in my head kind of hurts me.  But it happened.  Florida is a great team.

Q:  Do you plan to participate in Summer League as well as Team USA?

A:  Yeah.  My plan is to participate in Summer League...I think.  As far as the Team USA thing I will be going to the mini-camp and playing.

Q:  Let's say you end up with the Trailblazers.  Some people are saying the Blazers will end up with the best Summer League team ever with you, Lamarcus Aldridge, Sergio Rodriguez, Martell Webster.

A:  I've seen Lamarcus and Martell play when I was in high school because they were a grade ahead of me on the AAU circuit.  It would be awesome to play with those guys.  I've seen Brandon play a couple times on TV.  I didn't see him in college.  I've heard about him and obviously he got Rookie of the Year.  If it happens it will be amazing.

Having the greatest Summer League team ever is like having the greatest pick up line ever when you go to a boys-only academy.  Just sayin...

Q:  One knock on you is that maybe you don't have the killer instinct like a Kevin Durant.  What would you answer to people who say that Greg Oden doesn't have a real, burning desire to be a winner?

A:  To be a winner?  Tell them to look at my record!  How are you going to say that I'm not a winner when I don't think I've lost 20 games since the sixth grade?

Q:  So that's a misconception just because you're more low-key?

A:  I'm not the kind of guy to go crazy and show all my emotions on the court but believe me they're in there.  If you happen to block my shot one time it's definitely going to come out.

He really sounded semi-annoyed too.  You gotta like that.

Q:  How do you stay motivated with all your success on a national stage already?

A:  Wednesday I was at a roundtable with Bill Russell, Bill Walton, Bob Lanier, David Robinson, and Patrick Ewing.  If I've accomplished anything, being in that room has put me back to being a little peon.  Those guys have accomplished something.  It was amazing being in that room and listening to those guys talk about what they did and what they've accomplished...if that can't motivate me then something's wrong.

Q:  Did you ask them any questions?  Who did you talk to most?

A:  I wanted to talk to and hear from David Robinson most because he's my favorite player.  But the guy who talked the most was Bill Russell.  He has a lot more knowledge than the rest of us.

Q:  Did he give you any advice?

A:  I can't even tell you all he told me because we'd be on the phone another hour.  But the one thing he really stressed with me is you have to make sure it's fun.  Have a good time no matter what you do because if you don't it's nothing.  David Robinson stressed me not putting too much pressure on myself...just come out and enjoy myself and realize it's going to take time for me to be a leader.  You can't rush it.  You just have to be yourself and stay humble and be ready for it and improve your game, but it's going to take time.

Q:  What were you there for?

A:  The Cavaliers game.  Tuesday night and I left Wednesday.  They had me do that and it was amazing.  I know the NBA had me do it as a TV special but it was like I was in school.  It was amazing and I loved every second of it.

Having David Robinson as a role model...it could be a lot worse for him.  That guy was a workout machine and also a quality guy.

Q:  How do you cope with the fans' expectations of you being a savior for a franchise?

A:  Like David Robinson said, you just have to go there and play your game.  You can't put too much pressure on yourself.  You have to go in and be around your teammates and "do you".   Don't try to go overboard.  That hurts a lot of players.  They put too much pressure on themselves and try to do too much.  You go in, you be yourself, you go in there and listen and try to take everything in but you can't do too much.  All I can do is play my game.  You guys look at me...anybody who looks at anybody as a savior...all I can do is me.  If it's not enough, it's not enough.

See...I would argue at this point we don't need a savior.  We need a very good player to go along with the potentially very good players we already have.  The ship ain't sinking.  The boat just needs an engine.

Q:  What part of your game will surprise fans, that they don't know about?

A:  I got a little jump shot.  I've been working on it.  It's a little boy, but...fifteen feet, even seventeen, eighteen feet.  It's out there.  People are going to be surprised.

Q:  How did you develop such great dribbling skills?

A:  My warmup now uses 20-minute two-ball drills...as a warmup!  That's helping me.

Q:  Do you feel comfortable going to a team like Portland that's struggling a little bit.

A:  If you go to any team in the lottery you're going to a team that's struggling a little bit.  Really I'm going to go there and all I can say is, "I'm here, I'm here to work, and I'm going to try and help this team win some games."  I know going in that it's going to be tough...I won't say all the way at the bottom because there are some building blocks but we're starting over from somewhere close to the bottom.

Q:  You are very personable and engaging.  If you do come to Portland how important will it be for you to interact with fans and become part of the community.

A:  It'll be very important.  That would be something I'd love to do.  I'm the type of guy who likes to be around people and meet new people.  For me to be able to go out to a restaurant and sit in the middle with everybody else or go to Boys and Girls club...that would be something I'd love to do.

He sounds like he means it too.  Which either means he's a good guy or knows how to convincingly fake being a good guy.  Either one works.

Q:  We know you're a movie buff.  Give us your summer reviews.

A:  Umm...ummm...I don't know if I can say this...I've seen knocked up.  I've seen it twice.  It was hilarious.  I saw it with Josh McRoberts and J.J. Reddick in Orlando and it was funny.

Q:  Better than Wedding Crashers?

A:  Wedding Crashers was funny.  It had its parts.  But Knocked Up was funny throughout the whole entire movie.  Non-stop jokes.  Wedding Crashers is pretty hilarious but it has parts...but Knocked Up you're crying all the way through.

Q:  Seen any dud movies?

A:  Let me think about that.  (long pause)

Boat is lining up...skis are aligned nicely...speed is good...interview is preparing to jump the shark in 3...2...

Q:  Don't worry about it.  Let's talk about your new blog.  Why did you decide to start doing that?

A:  It just came across with a deal for me to do a blog.  I have plenty of free time to write my thoughts down and I don't have a problem letting people in to my thoughts.  In fact I had to have people go through and cross out parts.  I said, "I thought I was supposed to write what I was thinking!"  They said you can't write all of that.  I don't mind writing about what's going on because I'm enjoying myself.  People get to know the real me.  They don't just see a seven foot guy and think he's boring.  They get to see the real me and what I do with my life.

Q:  What kind of stuff are they cutting out?

A:  Just detail stuff.  I'm really not supposed to talk about it.  Like...really, I can't.

Q:  A fan question:  Why should I pay $50 to watch you play?

A:  You shouldn't pay $50 just to go watch me.  You should play $50 to watch a team represent your city, play good basketball, and have fun while they're doing it...to see guys competing, that's what sports is all about.  It's not just about one person...even though I did pay to see LeBron a couple of times.

Q:  You didn't pay to see Varejao?

A:  It was so funny.  When he got the ball everybody in the crowd started yelling, "NO!"  And they were yelling it all together.  I'm just sitting there looking around, like, "Oh my God."  Then he went into the lane and made his move, and I thought it was a good one, but the shot wasn't there.

Funny stuff about Varejao.  But the real prize is the way he answered that $50 question.  He's almost as smooth in the interview as Lamarcus is with the turn-around.  Good stuff.

Q:  As your workout approaches with Portland and Nate McMillan have you studied them at all?

A:  I've been trying to.  In Cleveland Bill Russell said when he did it he knew every person in the opposing team even if they didn't play...their strengths and their weaknesses.  I'm thinking to myself maybe I should do some research.  Yesterday was pretty busy and today I wanted to Google some stuff but my internet isn't working.  But it's definitely a plan.  I know a little bit.  Bill Walton told me a lot.

Q:  You know Freddie Jones too.

A:  Yeah...I knew Fred when he was here in Indiana.  We met in Best Buy.  I'm towering over the stands where the movies are but I have a hat on to try and cover my face.  Then he walks in and looks at me and says, "Boy you cannot hide!  You taller than the doggone stand.  Everybody's gonna see you."  Cuz I had a little bucket hat on.  After that we exchanged numbers and stayed close.

Q:  Would you rather join a team with established veterans or a younger squad you can grow with?

A:  I really don't have a preference.  You can look at it both ways.  Playing with younger guys my age we'll have a lot of things in common.  We'll be able to start from the beginning...all odds against us because we're young.  But if you have a veteran team you learn so much and they teach you the game.  It's good to be out there with people who know what they're doing.

Q:  How much of a relationship do you want to develop with Bill Russell?  Will you lean on him in the future?

A:  I would love to.  He's really a unique guy.  It was great getting to talk to him and listen to him.  He was amazing.  I gave him my number and I plan on e-mailing him and keeping in contact. I was honored.  I learned so much from those guys.

Q:  Talk about your relationship with Mike Conley Jr.

A:  You know what?  I don't think he'll ever say this but I think he wants to go somewhere and be his own player and not be mentioned in the same sentence as me always.  He says that he doesn't but I don't know.  We've been together so long.  We're cool dudes and we're not crazy so we don't get on each others' nerves.  But you've been around each other so long you're going to grow a friendship.  He's funny.  He called me on the way to Cleveland.  He was going crazy because he happened to hear his name in a song on somebody's new CD.  He said, "You got to go buy this CD he said my name!"  I feel like this:  when I started in the fourth/fifth grade I couldn't hit a layup.  I started playing with Mike Conley in sixth grade and look at me now.

I don't know if this was a prepared answer or not, but it's a darn good one.  It admits the friendship and celebrates it but also creates a ton of distance from the whole "joined at the hip" hubbub.  Beautiful.

Q:  How familiar are you with Maurice Lucas's history as an enforcer and is that part of what you'd like to add to your game...some toughness?

A:   I don't know his game exactly.  I met him when I was in Orlando and shook his hand.  Bill Walton told me that the best player in Portland history is Mr. Lucas.  I really don't know his game.  As I learn and meet him...who knows?  I need a little bit of attitude in my game.

Q:  Watch out with the scrimmages with him...he throws some elbows.  He'll catch you in the grill.

A:  I throw some elbows myself.  People don't normally see them.

Q:  What are the pros and cons of playing in a small market like Portland as opposed to a large market like Los Angeles or New York.

A:  Portland...people have told me it's the only pro team in the city so there's so much support and the guys are loved.  That's really nice but...L.A. is my favorite city.  I'm not even going to lie to you.  Close to the beach.  But being to Portland...it is beautiful out there with the mountains.  It's not like it's all country.  There's a lot of trees and it's really hilly.  It's a good city.

At this point the phonograph needle scratches loudly across the record, which comes to a screeching halt.  "L.A. is my favorite city"?  That, my friend, is something that should be thought and not shared.  And the description of Portland?  It sounded like the explanation you'd give your wingman why he gets the plump friend at the bar while you get the model.

Q:  Do you plan on keeping the beard?

A:  My barber was in Indianapolis so I couldn't get my hair cut all the time.  Really I was just tired and didn't want to get it cut.  I just grew it out.  It wasn't a big deal.  It was just a beard to me.

Q:  Do you have a nickname that you're called that you prefer?

A:  People just call me G.O.  "Big G" or G.O.

Q:  Since number 20 is retired is there any number you prefer to wear if you become a Trailblazer?

A:  I don't know.  I haven't thought of it.  It's just a number really.  Some numbers sell better but I don't get any of that revenue anyway.

Q:  Who was tougher to guard, Joakim Noah or Al Horford?

A:  Al Horford can shoot.  He can hit that jumper but he's also shorter than Noah.  The first time we played them I was so scared he was going to do that spin move and dunk on me.  When I blocked it I got so happy.  I don't know how he was dunking.  He just sticks his arm out and goes to the rim.  I thought he might get me one time but he didn't end up getting me.  I blocked it.  Horford is shorter and he can move better.  Joakim is longer and he doesn't really shoot as much.

Q:  How often do you work out?  Have all of these publicity things interfered with your workouts?

A:  Yeah.  When I had to go there I had to leave my workout and couldn't work out for two days.  When I'm here I'm working out as much as possible.  When things come up and I'm out of town I really don't get to work out that much.

Q:  Do you want to say anything to the fans of Portland?

A:  I'm going to be in Portland on the 19th.  I'm going to get something to eat.  Don't be afraid to say hi.  I'm going to see how the people are in Portland.  But if I'm eating you might not want to come over there because that's when I get in my dog mode and you might come back missing a limb.

Cute.  So make sure if you see G.O. in a restaurant you get to him after the waiter has come but before the appetizer.  Oh...and I'm sure Kevin Pritchard and the staff will love you interrupting their dinner with him so he can get to know the people of Portland better.

Overall an incredibly good interview.  Oden's personality seems everything advertised.  Other than the passing gas in church moment when asked about the city, it was an A+ endeavor.  Hopefully we'll have much more with him.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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