Bill Simmons of pop culture and sports website Grantland.com -- also known as "The Sports Guy" -- interviewed Mark Titus about his recent feature interview of former Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden. Audio here.
The interview included a lot of the same thoughts from Titus that were transcribed in this earlier radio interview. Below is a partial transcript with some additional thoughts from Titus as well as reaction from Simmons, including a nice name-check to Blazersedge. Hat tip to @LukeFritz64.
Mark Titus on feedback to the piece
It's not what I expected. A lot of people don't know anything about him. To kind of get inside his head a little bit, people are enjoying it. They're surprised at all the things that went on in his life. You hear the name Greg Oden you immediately think he's a bust and injured all the time and dismiss him and don't care about the other things he has going on. That's why I wanted to do the story and he really wanted to do it too, he's had a lot of personal tragedies in his life that people don't know about. He deals with a lot of demons having all the expectations that he hasn't lived up to. I think people are glad to understand him as a person better.
Then there's the other side of it -- the Portland fans who are upset that he's played the victim card a little too much and all that, but I think those are just Portland fans who are bitter it didn't work out and, I don't know, haven't really moved on from it.
Bill Simmons on Blazers' handling of Greg Oden
He was out on an island basically with that team. He gets hurt as a rookie, now he's in Portland, he's rehabbing. He was talking about how he didn't have that veteran influence. His cousin comes, his Air Force cousin, turns his house into a party house. Now he's drinking all the time. Gets hurt again. As I was reading the feature, I kept coming back to like, 'Let's say this was the San Antonio Spurs.' A really good organization that looks out for its players. I just can't believe they would have allowed some of these things to happen. I think those were fair criticisms.
Bill Simmons on Blazers fans
The city of Portland, that has one professional team, and they care about the Blazers -- I always call them the Soccer Moms lovingly. They are so over the top. I went on the Blazersedge board yesterday. Your feature had been up for four hours and there were 375 comments under the link. You have this rabid fanbase, all they do is dissect every possible thing that's happening with this team.
Bill Simmons on Portland's injury history and relationship to Oden
On top of that, you have the history of their centers -- LaRue Martin, Sam Bowie, Arvydas Sabonis, Bill Walton -- they not only won the 1977 title but the next year's team was better. That should have been the league's next dynasty and his feet fall apart and he ends up leaving. It seems like Oden was the natural successor to all of that heartache. When you think about it -- there was five percent odds Portland gets that pick. If he goes to Seattle, which becomes Oklahoma City, or he goes to the Celtics... it really does seem like he went to the worst possible team considering the baggage they had. It made me sad, the whole piece.
Bill Simmons on recent Blazers management and handling injuries
The Portland organization was pretty screwed up these last five years. They fired Kevin Pritchard and Tom Penn out of nowhere. Hired Rich Cho, they fired him after a year. Last year, they didn't even really have a GM, they had an Acting GM. Now they are looking for a GM. People don't even -- normally when a GM job is open, people jump at it. In this case, people are afraid to even talk with them because the feeling is owner Paul Allen has lost his marbles a little bit. Larry Miller and these people running the team haven't really run the team that well.
Then I was thinking about how Brandon Roy was battling all his knee injuries and knee problems and they rushed him back in the 2010 playoffs. I remember writing about it at the time. That's not something you do if you have a strong organization. They weren't going to win the title that year. Why are you risking Brandon Roy's career and rushing him back early from this torn meniscus? That made me think that there was some real validity to Greg saying he felt pressure to come back. I just feel like if you have a good organization, you're going to baby Greg Oden as much as you possibly can and you're not going to put him onto the court until you're 100 percent sure he's ready. I don't feel like they did that.
Mark Titus on Blazers handling injuries
That's kind of what I wanted to bring up in the piece. It kind of got taken the wrong way, that I was definitely blaming the Blazers. They just have a history of that. Being maybe not run as well as they should. They have no GM. Do they even have a coach right now? No coach. No GM. The Roy situation, the history of injuries -- Joel Przybilla has had knee problems too. This year, their three best players all had season-ending injuries -- Roy, Oden and Aldridge. Heading into the year it looked like all three of them would have a chance to play together and before the end of the year, they're all out for the year. There's a lot of stuff like that.
It's easy as a fan to say that 'We're cursed' and throw your hands up. But as a neutral looking at the situation, not that many bad things can happen to one franchise. There must be something to this. I don't know what that something is. I was just throwing it out there.
Bill Simmons on teams looking to sign injured players
From the people I talk to within the league, teams will target players from other teams that have had injury histories if they feel like that guy's team -- either their medical staff isn't great or they screwed some stuff up. It's something where it's talked about. 'We should go after that guy, they keep screwing things up with him, if we get him our doctors [can do better].' Phoenix is famous for doing that. I've read this piece thinking as a Celtics fan thinking, 'We should roll the dice with this guy.'
Bill Simmons on where Greg Oden should sign in 2012-13
The three teams that make the most sense are Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Boston. He wants to go to a team that has a really good organization, a team that has veterans or real character guys that will look out for him, a great coach, which Doc [Rivers] and [Gregg] Popovich would really be able to help him. He wants to be in a situation where the team is good anyways. Where it's like a luxury if it works out with him. Think of him on San Antonio, that team is going to win 60 games regardless if they sign him or not. Now he's with Duncan and Popovich, they're just like, 'Greg, we don't care if you play this year. Embrace our culture, work out with us. Be on a real team for once.' I think that would work.
If you were going to rank the best stories for what his comeback would be, I think Oklahoma City would be first. Him and [Kevin] Durant on the same team. That would be incredible.
Him ending up in Boston would be interesting because he was really the first guy in a long time compared to Bill Russell. The Celtics had the best chance to win him and didn't. Also him playing with K.G. [Kevin Garnett] and [Paul] Pierce, that would be good for him.
Indiana -- coming home, that's the sports movie, or if we are doing a "30 for 30" about this, it would be the perfect last 15 minutes, him redeeming himself in Indiana.
Miami would be good from the standpoint of -- now you're getting no attention at all. You're under the radar.
The Lakers -- because he could go back and forth to Germany with Kobe [Bryant]. Maybe that would save his career.
Mark Titus on whether Greg Oden read the piece
Yeah, he read it. I talked to him last night. He was really excited about it. I think he's just happy that people are talking about him on the Internet without calling him a bust and making fun of him and all that stuff. He told me at one point -- 'If I had Twitter, I would have the saddest reply feed in the history of Twitter. It would just be people hating on me.' He said it half-jokingly but at the same time you felt for him. He's definitely on the Internet reading stuff about him so it's gotten to him a little bit. I think he's finally excited that people understand the story and understand he's human.
Just because he has millions of dollars and women throwing themselves at him, and all that stuff, it doesn't mean he has a life to be jealous of. He still has trouble walking when he's rehabbing his knees. Just trying to get out of bed every day with a surgically repaired knee, even if you're not a basketball player, any job, would be difficult. He was pretty pleased with it though. He was glad people could get inside his head a little bit.
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter