Greg Oden can still be a factor in the NBA

mushi Roar Guru

By mushi, mushi is a Roar Guru

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    In a gym somewhere in Indiana, there is a behemoth running up and down a hardwood floor under the watchful eye of a physiotherapist paid for out of the small fortune earned from having promise at the game of basketball.

    His 24-year-old body has seen more surgical intrusion than most of us will see in our life time. But his craggy face, which looks like a mountainous characterture, can still break into a smile when he discusses basketball and his future.

    Greg Oden knows full well he’s been a bust to this point, and unlike so many of his peers, is realistic and humble about his standing in the league which once offered him so much. “It’s not like there are teams out there telling me they want me” he says to all the speculation of him joining various basketball powerhouses on the path to a title run.

    There have been suggestions that the Portland teams philosophy to rehabilitation and medical staffing have had a disastrous influence on Greg Oden’s recovery.

    Where teams like the Suns are lauded for having professionals closely monitor rehabilitation processes to ensure that exercises are correctly executed or the program is adjusted if there is an unexpected change, the Trailblazers are notorious for a more ‘set and forget’ plan, leaving the execution and day-to-day monitoring of the rehabilitation to the athlete.

    During Oden’s first recovery, Nate McMillian, the coach of the Trailblazers, noted that he was trying to stop Greg from spending so much time in the gym as he was getting too big in the upper body during the rehab.

    I was perplexed at the time as I would have thought the team’s medical staff would have already provided this type of oversight to the future of their franchise to ensure all his efforts were directed into exercises that would help rebuild his body not place additional strain.

    As it stands Oden’s career, if it ends now, eerily spans the equivalent of single season with 82 games in the ledger. While his classmate Kevin Durant spent his first few offseasons refining his game by adding the fake and rip move, that turned him from a quality offensive player into arguably the best scorer in the league, and working on defensive reads and footwork to become a two way player, Oden has been in and out of doctors surgeries and physio treatment rooms.

    It’s important to remember this when looking at Oden, and how effective he could be should he make a come back. In basketball terms Oden is almost like a D-league discovery, he probably has some basketball growth in him, but it will be marginal as his formative years as a talent have been wasted on the operating table.

    But you look at those 82 games and the first thing I think is…Wow. Yes everyone would have taken Durant over Oden if you listen to the chatter, well of course everyone other than every scout or GM surveyed at any point over the 18 months prior to the draft, but consider this for a second.

    Over Oden’s first 82 games had a percentage of 19.5 (much higher than Durant’s), he blocked shots at a higher rate than Dwight Howard’s career numbers, his rebounding rate was just a smidgen (a technical term there) behind Kevin Love.

    His true shooting percentage was over 61% despite only having one basic post move that he got off using raw power to create separation.

    Then you add to those numbers, the more difficult to quantify defensive presence of a wide-bodied seven footer and that right there is a top five centre in the game, not a developing big man, not a project but a guy who, if he can stay on the floor, should be one of the best players in the league at his position.

    Which is why he was eagerly awaited for 18 months and saw teams tank for the opportunity to draft him number one.

    Of course it is that “if” which has taken him from saviour to bust.

    Looking at this both saddens me, for the lost potential as a fan and the what if’s had a team with a better history of treating injured players drafted him, but is also an encouraging sign.

    If Greg Oden can spend a year away from the game ensuring he is in the best shape possible and correctly rehabbing his knees, then there is every chance that he won’t just contribute to a team but be able to make a substantial difference to their fortunes.

    He may not work out, but you could say that of many lottery pick big men, and if he stays healthy enough to play 70 odd games at high 20 minutes, you’ve bought yourself three years of a bruising five that protects the rim at a cut price rate.

    And if it doesn’t work out then I say good luck to Greg, a seemingly well mannered and good natured guy, and enjoy your millions and future career as a school gym teacher.

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    The Crowd Says (11)

    • Roar Rookie

      October 27th 2012 @ 7:53am
      Eric George said | October 27th 2012 @ 7:53am | ! Report

      Great article, mushi, although I do get pretty bummed out when I think of Greg.

      Given the dearth of quality size in the NBA I’m really shocked no one’s taking a flier on the guy. If the Lakers click there will be quite a few teams in the West who need depth at Centre to cope.

      One question, what stat are you referring to here?

      “Over Oden’s first 82 games had a percentage of 19.5 (much higher than Durant’s)”

      • October 29th 2012 @ 8:25am
        mushi said | October 29th 2012 @ 8:25am | ! Report

        sorry – just confirmed I submitted PER but didn’t put the explanation behind it so the editors thought I meant percentage

    • October 27th 2012 @ 8:41am
      Jacque De Witt said | October 27th 2012 @ 8:41am | ! Report

      Great article, I wish the Miami Heat would sign him for the league minimum, give him an opportunity to show what he can do, and move Bosh back to the 4, where he would probably average 1.5 pts and 2 rebounds higher than if he plays the Center position. It’s a low risk, high reward, because of the amount of money you would offer him, and you wouldn’t have to worry about getting hurt with the luxury tax, that the new CBA imposed last year.

      • November 2nd 2012 @ 4:06pm
        LK said | November 2nd 2012 @ 4:06pm | ! Report

        I wish the whole league would play for the Miami Heat

    • October 27th 2012 @ 8:50am
      Mushi said | October 27th 2012 @ 8:50am | ! Report

      I think i submitted PER so maybe the editors made it percentage.

    • Columnist

      October 27th 2012 @ 9:39am
      Ryan O'Connell said | October 27th 2012 @ 9:39am | ! Report

      Mushi, I too think Greg Oden can still have a meaningful NBA career. Talented 7 footers are extremely rare in today’s game, and because of that, if Oden can get healthy he can still have a positive impact in the league.

      Bigger questions need to be asked of Portland’s coaching staff, management, and in particular, the medical staff. Portland has a long and sad history when it comes to injured stars (Bill Walton, Sam Bowie, Greg Oden and Brandon Roy), but something is amiss in Oregon. Raymond Felton played all of last year heavily overweight, Roy was forced to retire early, and is now making a comeback with Minnesota, and you’ve just written a whole piece on the tragic story of Oden.

      It can’t all be co-incidence, can it?

      • October 29th 2012 @ 8:24am
        mushi said | October 29th 2012 @ 8:24am | ! Report

        That was part of the impetus for the article. I read earlier this year an insider’s view of Portland’s rehab practices, now it was sourced from a consultant who wasn’t hired permanently (which defenders of the practices point to as the motivation) but certain things really seemed strange to me.

        They apparently have an approach which can be likened to “you’re an adult you can manage your own rehab”. Which, I don’t know if you’ve ever met people doing boring rehab, most adults aren’t exactly sticklers for the routine let alone 19 year olds.

        It triggered for me the memory of McMillan basically publicly stating he’d questioned Greg’s obsession with building upper body muscle during his rehab when he should be focusing on his core and lower body. When I first heard that I thought surely the medical staff wouldn’t allow that to happen…um apparently they weren’t watching for the entire process where he added 10 to 20 pounds of strain to his knee injury.

        The article juxtaposed it with the Suns approach which is monitored rehab ensuring that the affected area is built up before you add muscle elsewhere. I’m no doctor but my physio (whom I ignored and then injured my other leg!) and other articles have said this approach minimises the risk of overcompensating and injuring other parts of your body.

        I just don’t get why you don’t throw the 100-200k at a physio dedicated to individual rehab when we are talking 8 figure assets here? Let alone when you have an asset like Oden who was potentially one of the most valuable pieces in the NBA (a rookie contract transitioning to a top 10/15 player on a max contract).

        As you say it’s not like career threatening injuries are a rarity in Portland.

        • Columnist

          October 29th 2012 @ 8:55am
          Ryan O'Connell said | October 29th 2012 @ 8:55am | ! Report

          I read something similar, Mushi. It wasn’t the consultant’s thoughts, but rather Nate McMillan’s surprise when he first got at the club. He was a bit taken aback with their approach to medicine/rehab/injuries, etc.

          Like you, I’m no doctor, but even looking at these thing superficially, when you compare the Suns to the Trailblazers, just from a broad perspective, you do have to ask some questions. The Suns medical staff have a very positive perception, and have been able to keep aging stars (Nash and Hill) on the court, along with getting the best out of injury prone or previously poorly conditioned players.

          With that reputation and history, you’d love to see them get their hands on Oden.

          (Incidentally, while I think of it – having a top notch medical team is one way to make your club an attractive free agency destination. You always here of often-injured players sounding out the Suns, simply because of their reputation of helping players get, or stay, on the court. To your point about $100-$200k on a physio, I bet it’s a lot cheaper having a great medical team than it is paying the luxury tax for free agents if you’re over the salary cap? Food for thought?)

    • October 27th 2012 @ 10:27pm
      Swampy said | October 27th 2012 @ 10:27pm | ! Report

      It’s sad for Oden cause he seems a genuinely good guy. I hope he can make something of a career.

      I remember watching the final four when he dominated but I recall he looked like a 30yr old playing against kids – guess his knees really were!

      Comment left via The Roar’s iPhone app. Download it now [http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/the-roar/id327174726?mt=8].

    • November 9th 2012 @ 3:28pm
      Inappropriate Kangaroo said | November 9th 2012 @ 3:28pm | ! Report

      Man Oden’s head looks like it is 50 already , sure he isnt like those 16 yr old Tongan kids down the rugby playing in the under 12s cause they lost their birth certificates back in Tonga ?

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