Former Portland GM explains Oden/Durant decision

Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden is attended to by medical personnel after getting injured during the first quarter of their NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets in Portland, Oregon December 5, 2009. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola (UNITED STATES SPORT BASKETBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Kevin Pritchard was the man in charge of the Portland Trailblazers when the team took Greg Oden with the #1 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft instead of Kevin Durant. Pritchard joined 95.5 the Game with John Canzano and discussed a wide range of topics, including that decision.

“I have never studied a person or players like I did Durant/Oden. It was every single minute of every single second of their entire careers. We were going back into AAU and the one thing that kept hitting us really hard was Greg Oden lost three games until he got to Ohio State, then he got hurt again and only lost a couple there and that was over hundreds and hundreds of games. The overwhelming thing that we got from everybody we talked to was the cat doesn’t care if he scores or does anything, but he’s about winning. We had been really trying to change our culture for guys who really put the team first, not care about stats, and really be about winning. We thought he was the pick at the time. We did the same thing with Durant. They said he’s gonna be the best scorer in the league, he’s going to be an amazing player, and he’s gonna win. We just felt like Greg was going to be that guy that just doesn’t lose basketball games. Right before he got hurt we were talking as a management group and we were like man doesn’t it feel like this is becoming a little bit like Greg’s team because in the locker room after a loss he would get really, really upset and he demands out of his teammates probably more than any other player I’ve been around other than Larry Bird. When he lost, he let his teammates knows what they have to do the next game. We were feeling so comfortable going into the rest of the second half of the season that we were going to be good because Greg was coming along.”

At the time, it was not easy to see that Durant was going to have the better career because it was impossible to know that Oden was going to have so much bad luck with injuries. Durant was definitely the better offensive player, but franchise centers don’t come around very often, and Oden was a major force on the defensive end (not unlike Dwight Howard). He also was capable on the offensive end, and already had a couple of post moves when he came out of Ohio State.

He may not be able to stay healthy, but the guy can play. His 36-minute splits over his first two seasons are impressive: 15.3 points, 11.9 rebounds, 3.4 blocks, 6.4 fouls…wait, ignore that last one. But seriously, lots of big men have trouble adjusting to NBA officiating.

Even if Oden can stay healthy, he’ll never overtake Durant in terms of overall value, but he can close the gap a bit…if he can just stay upright.

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Greg Oden out for the year…again

Griffin O'Brien,14, of Denver waits behind the Portland Trailblazers bench with a friend showing his support for Trailblazers center Greg Oden at the Pepsi Center in Denver on December 22, 2008. (UPI Photo/Gary C. Caskey) Photo via Newscom Photo via Newscom

The kid can’t catch a break…

A ligament in Oden’s left knee is damaged, to the point where it will require season-ending microfracture surgery.

Friday’s microfracture procedure in Colorado will be the third season-ending surgery Oden has experienced in his four years in Portland. In September of 2007, before he had even played an NBA game, Oden had microfracture on his right knee.

When healthy, Oden has shown tremendous potential. In the seven games leading up to his injury last season, he averaged 15.6 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game, which would be borderline All-Star numbers if the Trail Blazers were a contender.

But he has only managed to play 82 games in four seasons, and appears to have chronic problems with his knees. Now that Brandon Roy is dealing with his own knee issues (he apparently has no cartilage left), one wonders what could have been had the Blazers drafted Kevin Durant instead of Oden back in 2007.

The NBA’s 10 Top Moments of the Decade

Nice work by Shaun Powell over at

There are moments, and then there are Moments, the kind that tattoo themselves into your memory bank, making them hard to forget easily. The NBA had its share during the 2000s, certainly more that can be summed up in a few sentences.

Here’s a Top 10, confining the good and not-so-good moments to the on-court kind only that helped shape the decade.

10. Greg Oden out for the season, 2007 (and now, this one). When they drafted Greg Oden first overall in 2007, the Blazers had visions of another Bill Walton. Careful what you wish for. Oden quickly adopted Walton’s black cat and underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee. And then, just last week, he fractured his left patella. He doesn’t deserve this. Nobody does.

9. Cavaliers draft LeBron James, 2003. After a 17-win season, there wasn’t really much of a surprise what the Cavaliers would do with the first overall pick. Still, it was a major moment for the franchise, to be able to draft a local (well, Akron) and add instant buzz to a city long associated with professional sports heartbreak. LeBron made the Cavs good and Cleveland a destination. Imagine.

Read the rest after the jump.

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.

365 days of Greg Oden

Great find from Ball Don’t Lie, “One Greg Oden, 365 Days,” where a photographer took a picture of a Greg Oden statue (doing various things) every day for a year.

Check out the slide show here, and be sure to hit “i” so that the captions are on.

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