Do you remember the day The Blazers drafted Greg Oden? It seems so much longer ago than it really has been. A delirious fanbase with sudden dreams of not only N.B.A. success but potential domination. Face painted fans, coming to cheer the simple announcement, the video feed of the event, and rushing an empty Rose Garden court to simply enjoy the unbearable lightness of being that the announcement that The Blazers had selected Greg Oden with the #1 pick.
Those memories have too quickly gained the sepia toned cracked lines of an aged film. It already seems like looking back on archival news reel footage of world war II, both interesting, amusing and horrific and sad in light of what we know today.
No I haven't given up on Oden. Seriously I have not. I thought before his last injury he was showing most of the promise that made him The Blazers choice. But we have to admit a lot has happened since he was drafted and most of it hasn't been good.
A big problem I think we have now with Oden is what to do with him contractually. Do we pursue a contract extension? Do we risk NOT pursuing a contract extension? The problem if Greg Oden is allowed to become a free agent, is what The Blazers probably "should" offer Greg Oden, is not aligned with what other teams probably would be willing to offer Greg Oden. The Blazers become a victim of our perspective. To us, he's our #1 pick that through bad circumstance and injury reality- has not really been able to contribute consistently. And that's being kind....
To other franchises? Greg Oden is "new". He's a high cost gamble, but one that could pay off big time. You could make a high cost, short term gamble on a Greg Oden...and you might acquire one of the best young centers in the N.B.A. or you might adopt more of the challenges The Blazers have already faced. Nobody really knows. But my fear is some other franchises are going to be willing and ready to take that risk. Which put's The Blazers in a horrible place.
Unfortunately I'm speculating...but I don't feel Oden has had the rookie, early years, N.B.A. experience in Portland that would create an unbreakable bond. In other words, I don't think Oden has a Tim Duncan/San Antonio like loyalty to Portland. This is a kid that before all this happened admitted that he likes Sun and Beaches.... so we can't count on Oden simply deciding he wants to stay in Portland...after all it's arguable that he might just want to seek new Mojo in a New Location...
Couple that with Oden having shown just enough potential I think to entice large offers from franchises desperate to keep up with the rapidly forming Super Teams....and you have the perfect storm of Rich Cho's nightmares. Karmic payback in Salt Lake like sized proportions. Pay Oden what he is likely to garner on the open market, deserved or not? Your taking a very high priced gamble. Let him go? What if all his problems are behind him? What if he does become the superstar you drafted? You just made legendary blunder status.
So what is the best case scenario for dealing with the enigmatic problem that is Greg Oden? The best thing that could happen for The Blazers is that Oden have a fantastic season....the worst thing that could happen for Rich Cho, would be that Oden have a fantastic season...How do you negotiate a fair market value for a player that could either become a franchise cornerstone...or (and I hate to say it) is a bone crunch away from not being N.B.A. viable? And I dare anyone to really be able to say which is the more likely.
I suppose I'm getting a little ahead of myself. I suppose I'm speculating. But do you expect The Blazers to try to get Oden to sign an extension...and if so is that wise? I would say the very first step in defining Oden is to see what he can become or cannot become this season. That means playing him, without bubble wrap and seeing what emerges...and either we like it, or we don't. We can't really afford as a franchise to protect and shelter Oden, because as a franchise we need to know what he might be physically capable of contributing...or not.
Things seemed so clear, bright and sharply contrasted when we won the #1 pick and a young GM named Kevin Pritchard exclaimed "Rip City is Back!". It all seems so long ago....