Hoopsworld on Oden, more instant replay
Is It Oden's Time to Shine? This time of year every team is optimistic. Every team has a player they gush about, a player who improved a ton, and player they think is going to make "the leap" in their career. For the Portland Trail Blazers that player is oft-injured center Greg Oden.
If you follow the Blazers at all, you can't go past a single article, blog post, message board, or tweet without seeing something about how Oden is doing. He's impressing his teammates and coaches with his expanded face-up jumper and spin move post game. He's blocking shots like a maniac. Grabbing boards in a frenzy.
So is it true? Will this be when Oden lives up to the expectations? He's talked about being healthy and in shape, a little lighter, and how he feels last season he was a half second late on everything, hence the foul trouble. He feels the offseason has cut off that half second, allowing him to stay in front of plays instead of lagging behind them.
You have to be no better than cautiously optimistic at this point, knowing we saw all these same things last year at this time, but at the same time it's different.
Last year was when people first got a look at this physical specimen and saw the tease for what he could bring. We saw the raw strength, the power, and thought of what could be. His teammates were in awe of his power, and practically drooled over the possibilities.
And then Oden suffered through a season with few bright spots while fighting foul trouble and injuries.
So what makes this year different? Why should we pay attention and think it could be any different?
Oden had serious deficiencies in his game, apart from being a half-step slow all the time. He had very few post moves and almost no jumper in his game. Now, the team can give him the ball in the post and his teammates trust he has move game than just trying to dunk. No longer are his teammates in awe of his pure physical and athletic gifts; now they are impressed with his true production.
The young center has been playing fantastic in scrimmages and has whetted the appetites of a fan base the way few things could. Don't take my word for it if you don't want, but it's worth noting that Dwight Jaynes, a Portland writer who has covered the Blazers and other local sports for over a quarter century for the Oregonian, the Portland Tribune and other outlets, is also quietly optimistic.
"He's running better, for sure," writes Jaynes. "He seems to jump well. He's being aggressive and much more animated with his teammates. He's finished his chances around the basket and looks more comfortable on the floor. I don't see a lot of the awkwardness we saw last season. It's all good so far — I just want to wait a little bit longer before going too nuts about it."
Most sportswriters don't get too excited about the sports they cover, because there is a sense of having seen it all before. So when you see a writer with as lengthy a career as Jaynes writing those words, it's a reason to sit up and take notice.
I'm with him – cautiously optimistic.
More Instant Replay: From a NBA press release late Friday, the league has approved the expanded use of instant replay.
NEW YORK, Oct. 2, 2009 – The NBA Board of Governors approved the expanded use of instant replay in two circumstances, beginning with the 2009-10 season, the league announced today. Referees will now be permitted to use instant replay in the following situations:
· To determine at any point during the game whether a 24-second shot clock violation occurred prior to the release of a successful field goal attempt OR prior to a foul being committed.
· To determine during the last two minutes of regulation play and the last two minutes of any overtime period which player last touched the ball prior to it going out-of-bounds or whether the ball was last touched simultaneously by two opponents.
The out-of-bounds proposal was developed by a new instant replay committee consisting of: Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics Executive Director of Basketball Operations and General Manager; Rick Carlisle, Dallas Mavericks Head Coach; Mike Dunleavy, Los Angeles Clippers General Manager and Head Coach; Danny Ferry, Cleveland Cavaliers General Manager; Daryl Morey, Houston Rockets General Manager; Sam Presti, Oklahoma City Thunder General Manager; and Ed Stefanski, Philadelphia 76ers President and General Manager. The committee will continue to meet to discuss possible new uses of instant replay and monitor existing uses.