Although it's made the sports blog rounds by now, it's difficult to resist checking out RipCity's FanPost that links to a picture of Gregarious Oden allegedly drinking boxed wine.
It's hard not to feel sorry for Mr. Oden, as his status as a public personage has led him to be widely criticized for getting injured, working too hard during his rehabilitation, and enjoying himself at the birthday party of a friend.
YOU WERE THE VICTIM OF SOMETHING OUT OF YOUR CONTROL! YOU'RE BEING TOO SERIOUS! YOU'RE NOT BEING SERIOUS ENOUGH!
Gregarious has more old people advising him than anyone (except maybe our President) and, for the most part, his response has been silence. Most likely, he is numb to the outsiders and too busy McLovin life as Greg Oden to bother himself with the hysteria that flounders in his wake.
Which brings us to this week's FanPost of the Week: "Oden Superstar?" by OdenRoyLMA.
OdenRoyLMA brings some candor to the question of, "What are your expectations for Greg Oden next year?" The answers he provoked range along a wide spectrum, which caused me to step back and think on Mr. Oden for a minute.
Mr. Oden has been described as a "kid at a heart" and I think the hopelessness of a knee injury and the agonizingly long recovery process that goes with it are a powerful one-two punch to absorb if you're trying to grow into the responsibilities of being a professional basketball player living life under a microscope. Certainly, the Blazers have done their part (above and beyond) to support him through this time, but his slumped body language during and after games leaves no question the ordeal left its marks.
The picture of Gregarious enjoying the boxed wine begs the question, "Should he have stayed another year?" Imagine for a second that he didn't spend last summer gearing up for the draft and his rookie year and instead was preparing for his sophomore season. By now (most likely), he would have: won an NCAA title; won an NCAA MOP award; another year of skill development; another year of more anonymity than he currently has living in the Portland fishbowl; and, perhaps most importantly, another full year enjoying college life. His life would be more fun, more carefree and, most likely, more rich in accolades.
Or, imagine if there were no mandatory one-year of college experience to enter the NBA. Mr. Oden would be spending this April preparing for his third season in the league (or, more likely, enjoying himself in the playoffs). He would have: already put the majority of the pressure to perform behind him; a clear understanding of his role on whichever team he was playing for; two years of experience beating up on the league; only one more year to go to sign his second NBA contract (guaranteeing financial freedom for the next 10 generations of Odens... assuming this recession does, in fact, end at some point). His life would be more structured, more certain, and, generally speaking, more lucrative.
Instead, he is stuck between a rock and a hard place thanks to bum luck with his knee, the NBA's age limit and the financial pressures that led to his choice to go one-and-done. Of the three available scenarios (go back to college for a sophomore year, go pro straight from high school, or go one-and-done), the path he chose has provided the greatest test to his patience and self-confidence. It has required that he develop his character, his wisdom, and his appreciation for the gifts he possesses, developments that most young men in his position wouldn't bother with. I'm trying to imagine someone like DeShawn Stephenson enduring this scenario, I picture DeShawn dancing/limping as he hugs Soulja Boy and wildly waving his hand over his knee as he sits on the sidelines ("I can't feel my knee").
In its own way, Greg's odyssey and the personal development it has spawned has been invaluable.
Whether he puts up 18 and 10 as a starter right out of the chute or 12 and 6 in limited minutes as he gets acclimated, will be, I think, mostly irrelevant to our collective judgment of his impact on the Blazers next season. He will have dominating flashes, he will whet our appetite, and he will feel his way through the rookie process which is rarely a picnic. Even when November hits, the waiting will continue. There will be up and there will be downs and there will be adjustments.
In the end, the expectations, the guesses at his numbers, and the general hype don't help Mr. Oden heal. Until he steps foot on the court, the media maelstrom (this blog included) will necessarily occupy itself by seizing upon any public flash it can grasp.
The simple fact is that we need Gregarious more than he needs us. In fact, I suspect, he could use a Franzia more than he could use us most of the time. It's a huge credit to his demeanor and professionalism that the only way we find this out is by a camera phone picture taken by an anonymous college student. For now, its best that his silence speaks for him; here's hoping his play does the talking as soon as possible.