One of my most sacred and basic rules of interpreting the league is this: Never believe anything you read in pre-season regarding a player's improvement. 95% of the time you're going to be safe this way. Early autumn redemption stories are so standard they're clichés. Almost all of them are buried before the winter snow flies. Don't buy in until you've seen it demonstrated. During the regular season. Repeatedly.
But then along comes that silver-tongued devil Joe Freeman with this story on Greg Oden. Oh Joe, why do you tempt me so? I wasn't going to do this. My resolve was strong. But that piece...that lovely piece. It could have been photocopied straight from the "100 Things We Want to Hear About Greg Oden" manual. Among the tidbits shared:
- Oden is lighter and more mobile.
- Oden is relaxed and jovial.
- Oden wants to start.
- Oden is ripping up the court.
- Oden has been working like a madman over the summer.
- Oden's offense looks more effective.
- Oden is healthy.
- Oden might be able to stay out of foul trouble this year.
- All of this has been seconded by the Blazers staff.
Freeman ends with these quotes:
"I think he's back to the guy that we met when he got drafted," Aldridge said. "Back to having fun, more easy-going, more laid back. It seems like he's happy to be here again, like when I first met him."
And to those who still have doubts, [Assistant Coach Bill] Bayno has a simple message:
"You'll see," he said. "You'll see."
All I can say is: Shut up. You had me at "Hello".
So what are we to do? Read the article yourself. Greg Oden is clearly the biggest single variable to Portland's success this year. Do you believe yet? Will you have to wait and see? Are we in for an explosion or a disappointment? Do reports like this change your expectations for Greg any? Weigh in below while I go take a cold shower.