Greg Oden — a changed man?

Joe Freeman of The Oregonian wrote an interesting article that delves into Greg Oden and how he spent his summer.

There’s no question that a looser, less stressed and seemingly liberated Oden roamed the Rose Garden on Monday. So where did this transformation come from?

It all started on June 16, when assistant coach Bill Bayno arrived in Columbus, Ohio, to put Oden through a relentless and meticulous offseason workout. Four times a week, twice a day, Oden underwent a series of rigorous basketball drills designed to expand his offensive game, polish his shot-blocking and rebounding ability and improve his conditioning.

In the mornings, Bayno and Oden — sometimes with the help of former Blazer Brian Grant and Ohio State graduates now playing professionally overseas — would do drills to help improve Oden’s lateral quickness, coordination and reflexes. Some were basic, as Oden would have to block 16 shots in a row from various sides of the basket. Others were more complex, such as when Bayno would attack Oden with two-on-one and three-on-one fast breaks and require Oden to stop the ball, read passes, react quickly to snap passes and get himself in position to block shots.

The goal, Bayno says, was to help Oden rid himself of the foul trouble that plagued him last season and become more agile and more instinctive around the rim. And when defense wasn’t the focus, Bayno helped Oden work on improving his offensive repertoire, including jump hooks, baby jumpers and his face-up game.

Morning sessions lasted roughly 90 minutes and always concluded with Oden running full-court sprints and stairs. Then, in the evening, Oden would return to the gymnasium for pickup games, where he would experiment with the tools he had been working on with Bayno.

Earlier this year, I posed the question — how much better would the Blazers be had they drafted Kevin Durant instead of Greg Oden? — and the answer is that right now they’d be a lot better. Durant is a franchise player, while Oden, thus far, is an injury-prone, foul-prone center. He has a lot of work to do to justify the Blazers’ pick in 2007.

But I’m rooting for him. From everything I’ve read about Oden and on his blog, he seems like a genuinely nice, thoughtful guy. I’d love to see him reach his potential.

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Delonte West misses first practice…

…and it was an unexcused absence.

Details at ESPN.

Delonte West is back on his meds

When asked about his eventful summer, West gave the ol’ no comment-comment. (Cleveland Plain-Dealer)

“You have to respect the legal process,” West said, repeating similar comments by Cavs GM Danny Ferry and coach Mike Brown. “I understand there [are] a lot of questions. Right now what I want to focus on is this team and playing basketball. Once details come out surrounding the situation, you’ll see that it is not as big as some are making it. It is bad timing right before training camp, unfortunately, but all we can do is focus on basketball right now.”

“I’m back taking my meds and everything,” he said. “I’m focused on basketball. I’m dealing with some issues. I get highs and get lows. But all the last year I’ve been consistent being in a nice . . . routine. I was in a routine that I got out of this summer. I got away from it.”

Sounds like he has his head on straight again…or at least as straight as it can be.

Kobe learns from Olajuwon

MyFoxHouston reports that Kobe Bryant worked out for two hours with Hakeem Olajuwon, trying to learn the post and mid-post moves that made “The Dream” such a nightmare on the block.

Olajuwon said Bryant reached out to him for help with his moves in the post.

“He gave me the biggest compliment,” Olajuwon said. “(He said) You are the best (at the) mid-post and post move.

“He wanted me to show my moves to him.”

Olajuwon said his style of play in the paint is really suited for a guy like Bryant.

“In my mind most of my moves for a guy (with) that agility can use it better than the big guy,” Olajuwon said. “Because my moves are not really for the big guy.

“It’s for the guards and small forwards. So he would benefit most on the post because of his agility.

“It was so much fun because how he picks it up. I worked with him for two hours, step by step.”

Kobe is nothing if not smart. He knows he’s getting older and wants to pick his spots when attacking the basket. Michael Jordan developed a devastating post up game in the back half of his career and it’s no surprise that Kobe would want extend his effectiveness in the same way. Look for Bryant to spend more time on the block this season as he incorporates these post moves into his game.

Knicks re-sign Lee, Robinson

The New York Knicks have re-signed David Lee. Nate Robinson is close to a deal as well.

Lee’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, told on Thursday that the sides have an agreement in principle on a one-year contract.

“We’re on the verge of getting this done,” Bartelstein said. “I believe David will sign the contract tomorrow.”

The contract is believed to be worth $7 million for the 2009-10 season with incentives that could take it to $8 million if the Knicks reach the playoffs.

Fellow restricted free agent Nate Robinson has also reached terms with the Knicks on a one-year deal, according to a source with knowledge of the talks, that will pay him a higher salary than Robinson’s $2.9 million qualifying offer.

The Knicks’ stance has been clear all along. They are very reluctant to sign players to contracts that run longer than one year because they want to have as much cap flexibility as possible next season when they hope to woo a big-name free agent to New York.

If Lee’s contract demands were more reasonable, he would have signed a multi-year deal with another team a long time ago. But his camp has demanded $8-$10 million per season this entire time, and the market just won’t bear it. He’s a great rebounder, but he’s just an average defender and his numbers are a bit inflated because the Knicks play at a frenetic pace. By signing a one-year deal, he is risking the financial security of a mid-level deal that he no doubt could have signed had he been willing to reduce his asking price.

Would you rather have a guaranteed $7 million with a shot at a long-term deal averaging $8 million next summer or a mid-level deal that runs five years and a guaranteed $34 million starting this summer? If he suffers a career-ending injury this season, his decision to sign a one-year deal will cost him $27 million.

That’s a lot of risk. After all, 27 million birds in the hand are better than 47 million in the bush, right?

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