Does Greg Oden Have A Future In Portland?

The Portland Trail Blazers did the expected move with their oft-injured big man Greg Oden yesterday, tendering the free-agent-to-be with a qualifying offer of $8.8 million that makes him a restricted free agent.  Of course, this means that the Blazers will have the right to match any long-term deal or offer sheet that a team can offer Greg Oden, if and when teams are actually able to do that (hopefully it will be sometime before 2014).  Give Blazers President Larry Miller credit, he must be an eternal optimist.  From Blazers Edge

“We’ve stood behind Greg Oden every day since he became a Trail Blazer and that continues with today’s announcement,” said Trail Blazers President Larry Miller . “Despite the setbacks he’s experienced, he continues to be resilient in working tirelessly on his rehabilitation. We’re all very encouraged with not only his progress, but with his commitment and determination to return to the basketball court.”

How many NBA teams would actually consider a long term deal for a center with two microfracture surgeries that has played 82 games… since being drafted four years ago?  Consider the fact that Brian Cardinal once signed a six year contract worth $37 million and Jerome James got $30 million over five years and you will find your answer.   Despite Oden’s abominable injury history, there will be plenty of teams interested in not necessarily Oden right now, but the idea of Oden and what he can be.  If you’re skeptical of Portland’s offer and willingness to continue to invest in Oden, consider his value in being kept away from other teams and still potential impact player.  At this moment, the Blazers are playing with house money with Greg Oden’s future.  Any contribution will be seen as a bonus, but you can bet your life that the Blazers are going to be sure that Oden doesn’t finally blossom into a healthy, dominant, championship-winning big man on another team.  That would truly be their worst case scenario.

It’s almost impossible to believe, but Greg Oden is still only 23 years old.  Although it has been 592 days since Greg Oden last played in an NBA game, there is still just a thread of hope that he can still be an All-Star in this league.  If the Blazers truly thought that he was finished, they would have cut ties with him and let him become an albatross for another team.  It’s also almost impossible to remember, but Greg Oden was growing into becoming an influential center in the early ’09-’10 season before his devastating knee injury.  He averaged 11 points, 8.5 rebounds, and over 2 blocks a game (in only 24 MPG) in that limited 21 game season.  

If there’s anyone that deserves a break in the NBA and deserves fans to get behind him, it’s Greg Oden.  He was most recently seen being made to look like a laughingstock by TMZ.  Nobody wants to see a career cut short due to injury and Portland should be given credit for continuing to stick with Oden when a lot of teams would have left him out to dry a few season ending injuries ago.  I want Greg Oden to be healthy.  I want Greg Oden to succeed.  And I want Greg Oden to stop looking like the sports version of Eeyore and look like this again…

This picture from Oden’s time at Ohio State has always symbolized his career.  It shows that unique jaw-dropping capability that so few basketball players and athletes possess.  Greg Oden had that.  Just look at the faces on the Ohio State bench.  That’s what he brought to the table, and that’s why his professional career to date has been one of the most unfortunate stories in sports the last five years.  It may sound crazy, but Oden still has that transcendent potential that we see in this amazing dunk attempt locked somewhere.  Maybe it’s only an idea, or wishful thinking, but at least the Blazers and even Oden himself can cling to that.  Although he doesn’t look the part, Oden’s still young in years and in basketball mileage.  If his body ever cooperates, he still has a future in the NBA, and the Blazers may eventually be repaid for their patience and persistence.  Perhaps one day, we’ll finally see Greg Oden finish that dunk.