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The Polarity of Greg Oden

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Dave,

You spent more than a paragraph of your fantasy season post talking about Greg Oden.  You crammed everybody else into two paragraphs all together.  Dude!  He's not that good!  When he played I saw an offensively-challenged, uncoordinated, lumbering, ball-fumbling foul machine whose only redeeming quality was rebounding.  That's not enough for a #1 pick.  That's not enough to turn the team around.  Step away from the Kool-Aid.

Sigh.

Has Greg Oden ever been off of the far ends of the extreme scale?  We've been over this before.  When he was drafted people projected him as the franchise savior...the next Shaq.  Voices of reason, having seen him play against NBA competition a little, moderated that a little.  He was going to be good in some areas, a superstar in others, but would not produce Shaq-like offensive numbers or have that kind of impact.  But the Blazers didn't need him to.  Then he played a little and things turned out pretty much like that.  Folks got off the crazy train and took the subway to complaint junction.  Then he got hurt again (and again and again).  Now even in absentia, people want to leap to one end or the other of the evaluation scale.  We get comments like this about Oden never being anything.  He may never turn out to be anything but if that's so, it'll be because of injury, not talent.  Firing back are folks who cite his amazing per-minute stats during the time he did play.  Those show promise, but aren't any more indicative of him being a star than my occasional witty comment to a cute grocery store checker makes me George Clooney.  

Greg Oden is what he always was:  superb rebounder, huge athlete, shot-blocker, constant threat to score when within five feet of the bucket, otherwise possessing a rudimentary game. Plus he's very...very...hurt and has been most of his career.  He's no better than that and no worse, neither a savior nor a villain.  End of story.

That said, there's one aspect of Greg Oden that belongs squarely on the extreme end of extremity: his importance to this team.  People were excited about Portland's future in 2006 with Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge.  Serious championship-slash-eternal-elite-status talk didn't begin in earnest until May of 2007 when the lottery slot machine came up triple cherries (or lemon-lemon-lemon, depending on your perspective) for the Blazers.  In some ways the future looks more hopeful now for Portland than it did in 2007, in some ways less.  But either way the Blazers have done nothing that would wean them from dependence on the big guy, at least if you're talking major league aspirations.  The Blazers and all their followers are dealing with a double truth:

  1. Greg Oden's promise provides the best and in some ways only hope for a title in this generation.
  2. Greg Oden's injuries are keeping the Blazers from chasing that dream.  This is the biggest case of [chicken]blocking since Michael Bolton hit the club with the Lonely Island boys. (NSFW and NSFBE due to unbleeped swearing.)  

Either way, this qualifies as am Officially Huge Issue for the Blazers.  I suppose you can love him or hate him but you can't deny the elephant in the room.  Thus if Oden were healthy he'd be taking up a huge part of any preview.  Even when he's not, the Oden-Shaped Hole in the roster still looms large for the team unless and until they abandon hopes of being great and just settle for being decent enough for the next decade.  That's probably what will happen but I don't think anybody's ready to acquiesce to that fate just yet.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)