Tag:Greg Oden
Posted on: December 9, 2011 8:31 pm
 

Oden suffers setback, offer now less

Posted by Royce Young

Friday was a pretty bad day in Portland and there have been a lot bad days when it comes to the Blazers. First, Brandon Roy will reportedly retire and now there's news that Greg Oden has suffered an undisclosed setback.

The team in announcing Oden's one-year deal with the team made mention that he will be receiving less than the $8.9 million originally reported. Instead, Oden will get a figure lower than that because he had what the team would only call a setback to last year's microfracture surgery. The Oregonian has a few more details:

Oden on Thursday was examined by Dr. Steadman in Vail, and said he was given the nod to expand his activity, indicating he had made progress

But the Blazers, who didn't comment Thursday after his appointment, determined that he is less likely to return to the court this season

Oden's setback is with a non-weight bearing ligament. He has no symptoms and doesn't feel restricted, but there is concern w/ the fragility

Oden was said to be running and was looking to return to the floor in January, but that's unclear as to if it's possible now.
"Following Greg's most recent physical examination and evaluation, we've determined that he has suffered a setback," said team president Larry Miller in the release. "We're hopeful, but less confident that he will return to the court this season. We've stood by Greg from the day he was drafted and we continue to do so now with this agreement."

Said Oden: "I'm obviously disappointed with the setback, but I'm as determined as ever to return to the court. I appreciate the support of the Trail Blazers and our fans and that they continue to stand behind me."

Greg Oden's NBA career has basically been one big setback and this is just another in the long line of them.
Posted on: December 8, 2011 11:58 am
Edited on: December 8, 2011 12:00 pm
 

Oden accepts Blazers qualifying offer

Posted by Royce Young

Greg Oden will be staying with the Portland Trail Blazers for at least one more season, his agent told the Oregonian.

Oden will be signing a one-year, $8.9 million qualifying offer with the Blazers that would then make him an unrestricted free agent in 2012. The Blazers made that offer already before the lockout was installed.

There was some thinking that Oden might prefer a fresh start as he's had so many problems in Portland. Some buzz popped up recently about him looking at the Pacers, which are near his hometown.

But he probably wouldn't get anything near the $8.9 million he's getting with the qualifying offer. And he also has the opportunity to play for a bigger deal next season.

Oden has appeared in just 82 games since being taken No. 1 overall by Portland in the 2007 draft. He missed last season after having microfracture surgery in November. And that was after he had a kneecap injury in Dec. of 2009 that forced him to miss the rest of that season. So it's been a while since Oden has been on the basketball court.

Before that injury, Oden was playing pretty well in what was his second season averaging 11.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. Right now, the expectation is that Oden will return to the floor in January.

Waiting until 2012 is probably the wise thing for Oden to do. The $8.9 million is more than he'd likely get in free agency -- especially from the Heat -- and he could use 55 or so games to prove his health this season. If Oden can finally get back to full strength and play as the enforcer he did for that small part of 2009, he could be a player that would require a decent payday.

But as it's been since he was drafted with the top pick in 2007, Oden has to be healthy. Unless that happens, the $8.9 million this season might be the biggest check he'll see for the rest of his career.
Posted on: December 4, 2011 10:11 pm
 

Oden leaning heavily to re-signing with Blazers?

Posted by Royce Young

After a reported brief flirtation with the Miami Heat, Greg Oden could be re-signing with the Portland Trail Blazers, according to Yahoo! Sports.

Oden would be signing a one-year, $8.8 million qualifying offer with the Blazers that would then make him an unrestricted free agent in 2012. The Blazers made that offer already before the lockout was installed.

Oden has appeared in just 82 games since being taken No. 1 overall by Portland in the 2007 draft. He missed last season after having microfracture surgery in November. And that was after he had a kneecap injury in Dec. of 2009 that forced him to miss the rest of that season. So it's been a while since Oden has been on the basketball court.

Before that injury, Oden was playing pretty well in what was his second season averaging 11.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. Right now, the expectation is that Oden will return to the floor in January.

Waiting until 2012 is probably the wise thing for Oden to do. The $8.8 million is more than he'd likely get in free agency -- especially from the Heat -- and he could use 55 or so games to prove his health this season. If Oden can finally get back to full strength and play as the enforcer he did for that small part of 2009, he could be a player that would require a decent payday.

But as it's been since he was drafted with the top pick in 2007, Oden has to be healthy. Unless that happens, the $8.8 million this season might be the biggest check he'll see for the rest of his career.
Posted on: November 30, 2011 11:09 pm
Edited on: November 30, 2011 11:20 pm
 

Blazers C Greg Oden out until January at earliest

Posted by Ben Gollivergreg-oden

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The endless wait continues.

Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden, who last appeared in an NBA game on Dec. 5, 2009, will not be ready for the start of the 2011-2012 NBA regular season.

Portland Trail Blazers president Larry Miller made the news official while continuing to express full support for the oft-injured center during a meeting with reporters at the Rose Garden on Wednesday. Miller made it sound like Oden's return to Portland is a foregone conclusion despite the fact that he is a restricted free agent.

"Greg is a part of our Plan A," Miller said.

Back in October, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft informed fans on Facebook that he had begun running, but The Oregonian recently reported that Oden has not yet been cleared for basketball activities during his current rehabilitation from knee surgery.

Last summer, Bill Duffy, Oden's agent, said that they were targeting a potential return in January. Miller said that's still the plan.

"He won't be ready for the start of the season but we're hoping by January that he's able to play," Miller said.

A January return would come 25 months since Oden last took the court and more than 13 months since his most recent microfracture knee surgery, which occurred in Nov. 2010.

Miller said that Portland's acting general manager, Chad Buchanan, called Oden's agent on Wednesday, the first day that contact between NBA teams and agents was officially permitted. Oden, 23, was tendered an $8.8 million qualifying offer by the Blazers back in June.

"Chad also talked to Greg's agent today," Miller said. "From all indications, Greg is doing very well. His rehab is going great. The doctors are pleased with where he is. Mentally it sounds like Greg is in a good place. I think he feels good about our organization and how we've supported him through all this. Hopefully Greg will be here and will be able to help us out this season."

Oden has a number of options in front of him. He can accept the team's qualifying offer and play out the season before becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer. He can open negotiations on a multi-year contract extension with the Blazers. Or, he can see if any other teams are prepared to offer him an offer sheet during the abbreviated free agency period, which the Blazers would in turn have the ability to match.

Miller said all options, including a multi-year contract extension, remain on the table. 

"We're looking at all of those," Miller said. "We are looking at having some conversations about extending, if an offer does come in we'll look at it at that point and decide if we're going to match it at that point. But we're looking at both of those situations. [A multi-year deal] is a possibility."

In the meantime, Miller said that he expects Oden to attend training camp, even if he cannot participate fully. This despite the fact that the free agency period and training camp are both scheduled to open on Dec. 9.

"He'll hopefully be in training camp," Miller said, which apparently implies that the Blazers and Oden will reach an agreement in short order. "Don't know how much activity he will be able to participate in but he should be here."
Posted on: November 27, 2011 12:19 pm
Edited on: November 27, 2011 1:55 pm
 

NBA lockout's winners and losers

Posted by Ben Golliver

lockout-over
It's over. The 2011 NBA lockout is finally, mercifully over. Let's hail the victors and pity the vanquished in this rundown of the NBA lockout's winners and losers.

The Deal

Winners: NBA Owners

Over the next six years, the owners succeeded in shifting more than 1 billion dollars into their pockets by negotiating their share of the Basketball-Related Income split from 43 percent in the old deal to a 49 percent to 51 percent band in the new deal. That number could grow to more than 2 billion if both parties agree to continue the deal through to its full 10-year length.

In addition to the players' 10-figure financial give-back, the owners received major concessions on virtually every important issue governed by the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Contract lengths are getting shorter from a maximum of six years to a maximum of five years for players who are re-signing and four years for other free agents, meaningfully reducing the level of financial security players feel while also reducing the burden of bad contracts on a team. The mid-level exception system is shrinking, which hits the middle class free agents hardest while helping to keep owners from overpaying for mediocre talent. The luxury tax system is getting tougher, which limits the very highest-spending teams’ ability to compete and/or set the market for free agents while theoretically creating a slightly more level playing field between large and small market teams.

Whether or not you agree with the logic behind these major changes, their collective impact combined with the clear financial victory makes this negotiation a strong-arm highway robbery. And all it cost: less than 20 percent of the games in one season (and some hurt feelings among die-hard fans).

Losers: NBA Players

Any time you leave a negotiation thinking, “Well, this is bad, but it could have been worse,” you lost that negotiation. National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter even admitted that a recent NBA offer was “not the greatest proposal in the world", yet he and the players tentatively agreed to a deal very similar to the one he bashed publicly. This happened because the players never had real leverage or good alternatives. They were squeezed and had no escape route.

But, it could have been worse. The mid-level system in the agreement provides more spending power for teams (and thus more money for free agents) than in previous proposals. The luxury tax system is significantly tougher than the one in the previous CBA, but not as draconian as a hard cap – something that the owners maintained that they wanted for the longest time – and not as punitive as earlier reports indicated it might be.  The NBA also increased its spending floor for all of its teams, providing additional suitors for free agents and theoretically helping to prevent players from getting stuck on teams that totally slash-and-burn their rosters with no intention of actually competing.

America's Team

Winners: Miami Heat

Miami’s biggest concerns heading into the lockout: the new CBA would require the Heat to break up the Big 3 and/or the full 2011-2012 season would be cancelled, costing LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh a year of their primes. With a season now salvaged, the Big 3 can get back to their redemption work. And, while the tougher luxury tax system and reduced mid-level exception for luxury tax payers will eventually make it more difficult to add big-name free agents, the tax system won’t kick in for two years, meaning Miami doesn’t need to make any major roster cuts for quite a while. Bosh, who many thought last season might need to be traded so that Miami could conform to a hard cap system, appears safe for at least two years, if not the duration of his deal. Forward Mike Miller, as ESPN.com notes, could very likely be spared because the Heat will have a full mid-level exception based on their current salary cap number this year, too.

Losers: Miami Heat

Despite the salary cap good news, the Heat are also short-term losers. The 2011-2012 season now officially bears the historical taint associated with an abridged schedule. The 2012 Finals winner, no matter who it is, will bear the asterisk of being “lockout champions.” That’s fine if you are the Dallas Mavericks defending your 2011 title or the Los Angeles Lakers adding to your stockpile, but if you’re James, Wade, Bosh and company, your first title needs to be clean or critics will mercilessly work to invalidate it. Winning in 2012 will require Miami to win future titles to prove that their triumph wasn’t a short season fluke. In other words, James and company will carry a burden into the 2012-2013 season even if he finally wins his first ring.

NBA Players Abroad

Winners: Deron Williams, Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum, Rudy Fernandez

Until a recent minor knee tweak by Fernandez, all four NBA players made it through their international excursions in good health. No NBA player made more money playing hoops during the lockout than Williams, who took a risk in broadening his family’s horizons and staying active that paid off in game checks and lack of boredom. Parker and Batum returned home to France, garnering a hero’s welcome, while Fernandez did the same in Spain, where he is extraordinarily popular. All three put up big numbers and gave their fans a chance to see them during their peak years rather just a victory lap when their NBA careers are through. That’s got to be an incredibly fulfilling feeling.

Losers: Anyone that gets stuck in China

The Chinese Basketball Association insisted on preventing NBA opt-out provisions in its contracts, theoretically tying any player who signed with a team in that league through March, when the regular season ends. Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith, Yi Jianlian, Aaron Brooks, Patty Mills and others agreed to play in China and now their future is uncertain. Best case: their Chinese team agrees to release them so they can return to the United States. Worst case: they remain stuck until March, when finding a good NBA landing spot, not to mention salary number, could be significantly more difficult. The major consolation here is that Chinese teams were reportedly offering seven-figure deals, so guys that are trapped until March won’t be leaving empty-handed.

Saving The Season

Winner: Kobe Bryant

We’ve been saying for months and months that no player needs a 2011-2012 season more than Kobe Bryant. At 33, losing a year of his career would have been a disaster, and not just because he would have lost more than $25 million in salary. Bryant is embarking on dual epic quests: passing Michael Jordan in total number of championships and passing Michael Jordan on the all-time points list. Salvaging a season gives him a much better chance at both goals.

Older vets like Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan are similarly winners in that they save a twilight year from being extinguished.

Loser: Greg Oden

The Portland Trail Blazers center has not appeared in an NBA game since Dec. 2009 and is now a full year removed from his most recent microfracture surgery. Even so, The Oregonian reports that Oden still doesn't have a firm timetable on an expected return to the court and hasn't yet been cleared for basketball activities. Oden is a restricted free agent and now must enter contract negotiations without the ability to prove he can play again. Contract aside, a lost season would have helped delay the return of the enormous pressure he faces as a former No. 1 overall pick; now, Oden will likely come back to Portland, where expectations are still gigantic, after hiding out for most of the lockout, only to face another round of jokes and barbs about his health.

Public Relations

Winners: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Brandon Jennings and other charity game workhorses

The best way for a player to improve his standing with basketball die-hards is to show off his own unrequited love of the game. James, Durant and Jennings stood above the crowd in their dedication to playing in organized events across the country, connecting directly with fans and providing hope even when the lockout turned ugliest. Twitter and savvy sneaker campaigns – “Basketball Never Stops” and “Are You From Here?” – helped keep the positive momentum going. There’s no question all three guys made lifelong fans with their actions over the last six months.  

Loser: Michael Beasley

Beasley got busted for marijuana, threw an "All-Star Classic" charity game in which all the All-Stars bailed, shoved a fan in the face during a New York City exhibition, and sued his former agent and AAU coach – his surrogate father during high school – alleging major NCAA rules violations. He also hired and was then dropped by a PR firm that was working to help improve his image. To top it all off, he spoke out against his players union, saying that it was "kind of retarded" for the players to be fighting over a few BRI percentage points. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Timberwolves now bring to camp the No. 2 overall draft pick, Derrick Williams, who will be an instant fan favorite and figures to compete for his minutes.

JaVale McGee was another memorable face of player cluelessness, leaving one important NBPA meeting early to tell the media that the players insider were "ready to fold." He quickly denied that he made that comment only to have multiple reporters post audio of his statements instantly. Not his finest hour, to be sure.

Salary Cap Nuances

Winners: Young superstars like Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook

SBNation.com notes that players who excel during their rookie deals -- such as 2011 MVP Derrick Rose and 2011 All-Star Russell Westbrook -- stand to gain millions of extra dollars in attainable salary thanks to new rules that will reward players who produce at an all-NBA level while on subsidized rookie contracts. Elite players have way outperformed rookie contracts for years and deserved this extra financial incentive.

Losers: Small-market teams clinging to superstars

As the Arizona Republic notes, the rule that would have banned players from signing extend-and-trade contracts a la Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks last season was not included in the final CBA. So superstars who are impending free agents like Orlando's Dwight Howard and New Orleans' Chris Paul still have the opportunity to force their way out of town, should they choose to do so. You can hear the rumor mill doing extra laps around the track and stomach crunches to whip itself into midseason form.

Internet

Winners: Basketball Video Mix Websites

HoopMixTape.com and other highlight-reel videographers saw major upticks in traffic and interest during the summer pro-am and fall charity league circuits. Their ability to take high quality, professional footage and cut it together seamlessly in a matter of hours feeding the hoops need for basketball's year-round global audience in nearly real-time.  

Losers: NBA Online

The NBA’s decision to strip its websites of references to players and to start a Twitter account to aggressively push its labor message to media members, and even players, came off petty, heavy-handed and way too Big Brother in an arena that is supposed to be about fun, not business. The league has some serious fence-mending to do, especially with its core audience. It’s unclear whether the league knows that or not.

Negotiators

Winners: David Stern and Billy Hunter 

NBA commissioner David Stern and NBPA executive director Billy Hunter are begrudgingly buried here at the end. After months of cringe-inducing public statements, snail-slow negotiations, legal threats, condescending comments and all the rest, these two old adversaries actually struck a deal, which not only saves the league they serve but also manages to protect their own legacies from irreparable damage.

Posted on: October 27, 2011 6:52 pm
Edited on: October 27, 2011 6:58 pm
 

Blazers C Greg Oden: I am able to run again

Posted by Ben Gollivergreg-oden

December 5, 2009. That's the last time Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden played in an NBA game.

Needless to say the last two years have been a long journey. Oden has endured multiple knee surgeries and sweated through endless rehabilitation since that last game, against the Houston Rockets. His agent said that he underwent interventions, he visited a sports psychologist and he told a newspaper that he had "definitely cut back" on drinking and partying.

Back in June, the Blazers extended Oden an $8.8 million qualifying offer on the hope that he might make good on the potential they saw when they made the 7-footer the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft.

The details of Oden's current rehabilitation have remained mostly a mystery, as he has been virtually invisible during the lockout, working out in Los Angeles and only rarely agreeing to interviews.

On Thursday, Oden provided the first true update to his status in months on his official Facebook page.

"In LA right now working out," Oden wrote. "I ran the other day for the first time in awhile. Felt good!"

The message comes two weeks after Oden noted: "Hoping this lockout ends soon."

Back in April, Oden said that he was "nowhere near" returning to the court and that being able to run was "over five months away." 6 1/2 months later, running is finally in his rearview.

What does that mean for his future availability? Well, it's one indication that he is on -- or nearly on -- schedule. In June, Oden's agent, Bill Duffy, said it could be January 2012 before Oden returns to the court. By comparison, Oden missed 13 months after undergoing microfracture surgery prior to his rookie season. A January return would mean a 14-month recovery from his most recent microfracture surgery, which was performed less than one year after he underwent surgery on the same knee to repair a fractured patella.  

The Blazers are seemingly tied to Oden for the long haul despite his injury history. Aging center Marcus Camby or playing franchise power forward LaMarcus Aldridge out of position are their only other options in the middle. Oden is set to enter restricted free agency once the ongoing NBA lockout is lifted, but it's unclear what his market value will be. It's also unclear whether he would prefer to sign the one-year qualifying offer with the Blazers so that he could become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2012 or to negotitate a long-term extension. 

Oden, now 23, has played in just 82 games combined in the four seasons since he was drafted out of The Ohio State University. He has posted career averages of 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 22.1 minutes per game.
Posted on: September 23, 2011 1:29 pm
Edited on: September 23, 2011 3:11 pm
 

7 lost stories from canceled NBA preseason

Posted by Ben Golliver

silver-stern-2

On Friday, CBSSports.com's Ken Berger reported the dreadful news that we've all been fearing: the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association have failed to reach a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in time, meaning training camp and portions of the preseason schedule have been indefinitely postponed and/or canceled.

Preseason is always a fun time of the NBA calendar, guaranteed to be chockfull of "Player X added 15 pounds of muscle" and "Lottery team Y finally seems poised for a playoff push" stories. Of course, no preseason means no preseason stories. No hype, no hope. More Adam Silver, more David Stern. What a bummer. 

So here's a rundown of seven stories you would have been reading had the NBA and the NBPA gotten their collective act together in time to save the schedule. These stories are lost everywhere, except for here.

1. Security Detains Eddy Curry Outside AmericanAirlines Arena

MIAMI -- It appears that Eddy Curry will not be joining the Miami Heat after all.

Following nearly a year of reports indicating that Curry had lost an NBA-record 468 pounds since he was released by the Minnesota Timberwolves at least year's trade deadline, the free agent center was forcibly removed from AmericanAirlines Arena property by a cadre of four security guards on Tuesday. The use of force was deemed necessary after direct requests to leave from Heat president Pat Riley and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra were not heeded. 

"We didn't want to do it but we really had no choice," said Joseph Watkins, the guard assigned to carry Curry's left leg. "I was just following orders."

"What can I say? I got my hopes up," Curry explained. "I kept reading over and over that Miami was interested in me and I thought I could help LeBron [James] win a ring finally. I thought they would change their mind if I showed I was determined. I guess they wanted to go a different direction."

After the trimmed-down center had been dragged to an auxiliary parking lot, Riley briefly asked a reporter who Curry was before returning to the Heat's training session, which was closed to the media. When practice broke, Spoelstra indicated that the defending Eastern Conference champions were comfortable with their center rotation of Joel Anthony, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Dexter Pittman, Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, and Bill Wennington, and are not in the market for another big man.

"We like our guys," Spoelstra said.

Curry told the Associated Press that he isn't sure when or where his next basketball opportunity will come but did indicate that he would like to have the plastic handcuffs removed from his wrists, or at least loosened, as soon as possible.

2. Bloody Prank Signals Rift Between Thunder Stars?

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK -- A severed head was discovered inside a backpack belonging to Kevin Durant on Friday.

The Thunder's All-Star forward pulled the ghoulish, plastic mask -- which bore an uncanny resemblance to coach Scottie Brooks and had been doused in ketchup to simulate the appearance of blood -- out of his signature carry-all following an evening workout. With a look of bewilderment, Durant tossed the mask into a nearby trash can before returning to the team's practice court to work on his free throw shooting.

"I'm just out here trying to get better," Durant said, shrugging off his unsettling discovery.

It's not yet known who placed the mask in Durant's backpack, although suspicion was immediately cast upon Russell Westbrook. The mercurial guard led the NBA in postseason technical fouls in 201, rarely passes the ball because he's so self-involved and sometimes has a "funny look" -- according to multiple teammates -- in his eyes. Center Kendrick Perkins apparently implicated Westbrook in the incident when he stormed out of the practice facility, repeatedly yelling the words, "I told y'all! I told y'all!" 

The incident raises anew the question of whether Oklahoma City's two All-Stars will be capable of coexisting as their careers and games develop.

"Halloween is Monday," Westbrook said, cryptically, before rushing a free-throw extended jump shot and completely hurdling teammate Eric Maynor to claim the offensive rebound.

Thunder president Sam Presti did not offer an alibi for himself, but what else is new?

3. Rivers: More Needed From Rondo For Green To Succeed

BOSTON -- Nine months after the most controversial trade in recent Boston Celtics history, coach Doc Rivers continued to defend forward Jeff Green from media criticism.

A lightly sprained ankle for starting center Jermaine O'Neal caused local sports talk radio hosts and callers to go into hysterics on Monday, rehashing the ill-fated swap that brought Green to Boston in exchange for starting center Kendrick Perkins, who was sent to Oklahoma City.

"Jeff is still getting acclimated, and [president] Danny [Ainge] and I still believe he will be a key piece for us," Rivers said.

During the portion of practice open to the media, Green dribbled the ball off of his foot, missed three three-pointers, was late on two defensive assignments and appeared to frustrate aging forward Kevin Garnett, who was seen shaking his head sadly rather than barking instructions like usual.

When pressed, Rivers said that the eventual solution to what he called Green's "learning curve issues" will have to come from All-Star starting point guard Rajon Rondo.

"Rondo gets him wide open jumpers, wide open lay-ups, makes 10 plays a game defensively, and he leads by example," Rivers said. "But I have eyes, you have eyes. You can see it. It's clearly not enough. We're looking for Rondo to keep leading and to do even more, to carry all of us. [But] especially Jeff."

Pausing for a moment, Rivers, to the surprise of the media present, chose to vividly underscore his previous point.

"I don't care if Rondo dislocates both of his elbows at the same time so his arms are hanging off of his body backwards, he will need to carry Jeff."

Asked to respond to Rivers' comments, Rondo stared ahead blankly, as always.

4. Greg Oden No-Shows At Day One Of Blazers Camp

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Once again, the gym is full of NBA players and hopefuls.  Once again, the biggest one among them is missing.

The Portland Trail Blazers opened training camp to the media for the first time on Monday, only to reveal that center Greg Oden, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, was nowhere to be found. Oden, who signed a 5-year, $70 million extension during the early-October free agency period, has played just 82 games in his 4-year NBA career and has rarely been available to the media since suffering his most recent in Nov. 2010.

Through a spokesperson, Blazers president Larry Miller refused to comment about Oden's status, leaving new GM Brandon Roy -- who was promoted to the position after Miller used the amnesty clause to rid the Blazers of the four years remaining on his contract -- to face the media scrutiny alone. Roy said the team would not rush its center back to the court, noting that Oden's recovery from microfracture knee surgery was still "on schedule," although he did not divulge further specifics.

Blazers coach Nate McMillan looked irritated by the questions. "I've got 18 guys here fighting hard to grab one of our roster spots, let's talk about them," McMillan said.

Mike Conley, Sr., Oden's agent, offered a possible explanation by email. "Rehabilitation has kept Greg off the court for almost a year. During that time, in addition to completing a multi-disciplinary strength and flexibility training program, Greg has worked hard on improving and honing his invisibility. I'm pleased to hear that his work has evidently paid off. How many 7-footers do you know that can literally disappear in the blink of an eye? We feel this will make him even more valuable in the years to come."

Oden's whereabouts are not currently known at this time. His status for Portland's season opener is also up in the air.

"We'll just have to see," said McMillan.

Or not.

5. Kings Guard Completes First Pass

SACRAMENTO -- Kings coach Paul Westphal couldn't help but beam. After all, he had just witnessed an important milestone for his young team.

"I've been preaching unselfishness and ball movement all week and it was great to finally see these guys take that message to heart and execute it," Westphal said, his shirt soaked with sweat.

After back-to-back-back two-a-day practices and a morning session that yielded no progress, Jimmer Fredette became the team's first guard to complete a pass during scrimmage play on Thursday night. Prior to the pass, Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, John Salmons and free agent signing Jamal Crawford had each managed to take a shot, draw a foul or commit a turnover on all of their possessions. Meanwhile, rookie point guard Isaiah Thomas, arguably the team's best playmaker on paper, left the practice facility on Tuesday after being frozen out for 263 straight trips up the court and hasn't been heard from since. A team official assured CBSSports.com that the organization is "not alarmed."

Fredette's pass occurred when he inadvertently took the ball out of bounds following a made basket by Evans. Looking confused, and with no other option other than committing a five-second violation, Fredette reluctantly inbounded the ball to Thornton, who promptly dribbled coast-to-coast, only to have his running lay-up attempt swatted out of bounds by center DeMarcus Cousins. Westphal shouted encouragement -- "That's what I'm talking about!" -- and blew his whistle, briefly stopping practice to single out Fredette for praise.

"It was nothing, really," Fredette said, afterwards, looking a touch sheepish.

6. Adelman Closes Practices To Timberwolves Executives

MINNEAPOLIS, MN -- Two hours after a minor shouting match erupted between Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman and president David Kahn on Monday, the two men pledged publicly that they had put the matter behind them.

"Direct communication is integral to creating a winning atmosphere," Kahn told a group of reporters on Monday afternoon. "Rick and I exchanged ideas, as we often do, and we were able to come to a resolution that is amenable to both parties. We thank you for your interest but this matter has been resolved. We look forward to a successful year."

The dispute, two league sources said, began when Adelman chided Kahn for openly cheering for rookie point guard Ricky Rubio, while wearing a Rubio jersey, in front of the entire team. That exchange escalated when Adelman decided to play veteran Luke Ridnour with the starting unit, instead of Rubio, prompting Kahn to yell loudly, "Come on!" 

According to the sources, Adelman then threatened to quit on the spot, issuing a "you go or I go" ultimatum just weeks after formally accepting the position and signing a 4-year contract.

"This is my team and I make the coaching decisions," Adelman told reporters bluntly after practice. "That's it. Any other questions?"

The resolution, according to sources, will keep Kahn and other team executives off the practice court for the rest of training camp, although indications are that Kahn and Adelman have agreed to revisit the matter once the regular season begins.

Rubio, who competed for the Spanish national team at this summer's EuroBasket tournament, finished Monday's scrimmage with 0 points and two assists in 37 minutes.

7. Thibodeau Thanks Fans, Admits They Could Be Right

CHICAGO -- The Bulls held an intra-squad scrimmage at the United Center on Friday, allowing fans and season ticket holders the rare opportunity to watch the team go through its paces free of charge.

NBA MVP Derrick Rose drew the loudest cheers and the longest line of pre-game admirers, Luol Deng pledged $10,000 to charity at halftime, and new free agent signing J.R. Smith, who bought his own way out of a one-year contract he signed to play in China, autographed a diehard fan's neck with a tattoo gun. But the clear highlight of the festivities came when the NBA's reigning Coach of the Year, Tom Thibodeau, took a microphone at center court just before tipoff to thank Bulls fans for their loyal support during the team's run to the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals.

"You guys are the best fans in the league," Thibodeau said, to wild applause. "We hear you loud and clear every night. You give us a true home court advantage and we, all of us, from me to the players, appreciate it."

Seemingly overwhelmed by the extended standing ovation he received, Thibodeau shuffled quickly to the sideline before catching himself and returning to the microphone to offer a final thought.

"Just to let you know," the defensive mastermind continued, "We also hear you loud and clear about Carlos Boozer."

The simple mention of the power forward's name elicited instinctive and ravenous booing from the fans, who were in no mood to forgive Boozer's disappointing showing in the 2011 NBA Playoffs and the team's controversial decision not to use the Amnesty Clause to shed his massive contract during free agency.

"Yes, we've received thousands of letters, text messages, phone calls and emails. For the sanity of Illinois' hard-working postal workers, please stop sending them. We understand that you think he is soft, that he isn't good enough to be a No. 2 guy, and that he isn't clutch enough to put us over the top against Miami."

Here, the second-year head coach drew a breath and exhaled, the long, lonely nights in his office preparing schemes and reading the fan correspondence clearly weighing upon his heart.

"Look, you're probably right about all of it. But how the hell are we going to trade him?"

Boozer, who mysteriously broke his hand for the second consecutive offseason, was not medically cleared to play in the scrimmage and was not available to provide a statement. Nobody noticed or cared.

Posted on: September 10, 2011 2:20 pm
Edited on: September 10, 2011 2:48 pm
 

Shavlik Randolph: hype, hospital & heartbreak

Posted by Ben Golliver

shavlik-randolph-heat

Professional basketball players on the fringes of the NBA, those without the certainty of a guaranteed multi-year contracts and forced to compete over and over with others to land a coveted roster spot, understand that control gets cede sooner or later, that relentlessly chasing opportunity wherever it may be is the only way to make a living.

For Shavlik Randolph, a former McDonald’s All-American who battled injury and illness while at Duke, sticking in the NBA has been a whirlwind process, one that began when he wasn’t selected in the 2005 NBA Draft but wound up catching on with the Philadelphia 76ers. The last five years have been a blur of spot minutes, 10-day contracts, try-outs and workouts, but his whirlwind has never spun faster or with more force than the last 12 months. In a year that he won't soon forget, Randolph found himself in the eye of the Miami Heat’s hype hurricane, in a skier’s paradise rehabilitating alongside a No. 1 overall draft pick, and finally in the Caribbean tropics, where he had a courtside view of one of the most tragic events in basketball in 2011.

Miami

The story begins just months before LeBron James and Chris Bosh decided to join Dwyane Wade in Miami. Randolph had just finished filling in for the Portland Trail Blazers when a string of injuries had decimated their roster. Miami, merely a slightly above-average team at this point, was looking to add a little depth in advance of a playoff run and also, knowing that big offseason changes would be in store one way or another, to get a look at a potential hard-working, low-cost, no-ego role player. Randolph appeared in just three games for the Heat but was encouraged to stick around for summer workouts.

What happened next won’t soon be forgotten in the NBA. Bosh and Wade committed to the Heat, James announced his “Decision,” the trio held a parade to predict multiple championships and the basketball world’s attention honed in on South Beach.

“It was definitely crazy,” Randolph remembers. “I was there through every step of it. The circus, the hype.”

To get away from the scrutiny, the Heat, with Randolph in attendance, moved their training camp to a Florida Air Force base.

“It was all business,” Randolph said. “Hardest training camp of my life. Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra did an amazing job of creating a situation where [the distractions] didn’t affect them or the players. Just keeping a family atmosphere.”

A family atmosphere, at least off the court, anyway.

“LeBron, D. Wade and Bosh are three of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen,” Randolph said. “They went at each other like they were enemies every day in practice. They might have been the most talented, people gave them crap for all the hype, but no team practices harder.”

James, in particular, stood out. Randolph was born and raised in the heart of basketball country, Raleigh, N.C., the grandson of an All-American. He was a highly-regarded prospect as early as his mid-teens and he even broke his high school’s single-game scoring record set by Naismith Hall of Famer Pete Maravich. But nobody along the way made the kind of impression that James did during that training camp.

“The only word for it is ‘overwhelming,’” Randolph said. “His talent level is overwhelming. I had played against him [before[, but at camp I finally understood why he has the phrase ‘witness’ associated with him because until you step on a court with him and you see him, you can’t understand. That guy is the fastest player on the court, the strongest player on the court and the highest jumping guy on the court every time he plays.

“I would just say overwhelmingly impressive,” Randolph repeated. “He works hard. He works on his body, he works so hard.”

Ultimately, Randolph was one of Miami’s final roster cuts, released by the Heat in mid-October. A 6-foot-10 forward with a versatile offensive game, his skillset didn’t fill Miami’s biggest frontcourt need: bulky, veteran big men to provide depth in the middle.  

Vail

In truth, Randolph had actually dropped a significant amount of weight simply so he could keep up with the pace of play. A hip problem that he had dealt with since high school and that had required surgery while he was at Duke had resurfaced. He participated in a group tryout for the Blazers in early November, after Jeff Pendergraph was lost to a season-ending knee injury and his replacement, Fabricio Oberto, promptly retired due to an ongoing heart condition. Free agent Sean Marks won the job, though, leaving Randolph to face a difficult decision regarding his health.

“I’m 27 and I’m not getting any younger,” Randolph said. “My hip was so prohibiting. My flexibility, my explosiveness weren’t the same. I was playing at 220 pounds to be able to maintain a pro level of athleticism,” Randolph explained.

Admitting that he had put off surgery for “three or four seasons,” Randolph finally decided, in late-November, to undergo another procedure. Corrective hip surgery, he knew, would cost him most, if not all, of the 2010-2011 NBA season and, because he wasn’t on an NBA team, it would cost him money out of his own pocket. Still, it was worth it.

“If you’ve ever run around with a rock or a pebble in your shoe, that’s what my hip felt like,” Randolph said. “It twinges you. It doesn’t stop you from running and you can still do stuff on it, it just affects you and throws you off from being able to do what you normally do at 100 percent.”

Randolph travelled to the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colorado, where he could be operated on by Dr. Marc Philippon, an orthopedic hip surgeon who has treated the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Greg Norman and Mario Lemieux.

“It made all the difference in the world,” Randolph said of the surgery. “My explosiveness is back, my ability to box out, being able to play above the rim. It really affects you in every aspect. Now I'm back up to 245 or 250 pounds and moving with much more mobility. It brought all the fun back to the game too. My hip was pretty messed up and it was something I wish I had done a long time ago. I'm really excited.”

Rehabilitation work continued in Vail and, within days, Randolph was joined by another NBA player and former teammate: Blazers center Greg Oden.

Oden was in Vail to undergo microfracture surgery on his left knee after suffering a non-contact injury while working to get back on the court for the Blazers after fracturing his left patella in December 2009. In the months since his surgery, Oden, the 7-foot-0 and 285 monster whom the Blazers selected over All-Star forward Kevin Durant in 2007, has been as invisible as a man his size can be. He has consented to only a few media interviews, made one television appearance and has otherwise been content to remain totally out of the media’s critical spotlight.

But, in Vail, Oden wasn’t as withdrawn.

“He was very upbeat and very excited,” Randolph recalls. “I think he has a huge chip on his shoulder. He's looking forward to getting back on the court. I could see a sense of refreshment in his eyes after his surgery.”

A picture of the two players, side-by-side, confirms that account. Oden, his giant body balanced on crutches, smiles from ear-to-ear. His stay in Vail was brief, as he left town soon after his procedure to return to Portland and continue his rehabilitation. The encounter between the two left Randolph worried not for Oden, but for his future opposition.

“I feel bad for the centers in the NBA when he does get back on the court,” Randolph said, chuckling. “He’s so big. And he has a new sense of purpose.”

Puerto Rico

As if heading to training camp with the NBA’s best player and rehabilitating next to the man some have called the league’s biggest “bust” wasn’t enough for one year, Randolph wound up in one of basketball’s most remote locales, a by-stander to one of basketball’s most shocking tragedies of 2011.

With his rehab complete, the NBA regular season winding down and a lockout on the horizon, Randolph sought out an opportunity to play competitively and regain his professional bearings. In April, he signed with Gallitos de Isabela, a professional team in Puerto Rico.

The gyms in Puerto Rico are hot, loud and small and extra security attends rivalry games to protect against crowd violence. Players have even been known to issue threats to opponents on the court. The whole thing combines to create a bit of a Wild West atmosphere. But the geography and climate makes it a convenient, pleasant location for former or future NBA players to make a pitstop.  

“Puerto Rico is a very competitive league,” Randolph said. “Every team had NBA caliber players. I think that league is on the come-up.”

Randolph was able to find his old form, averaging 18 points and 12 rebounds in 27 games for the Gallitos, earning recognition as the league’s “Import of the Year.”

But his time on the often overlooked island would be marked by sad news that travelled quickly throughout the international basketball community. In May, former University of Michigan basketball star and journeyman NBA big man Robert “Tractor” Traylor was found dead at his apartment in Puerto Rico after suffering a heart attack.

Traylor was on the island playing for Vaqueros de Bayamon, one of Gallitos’ competitors.

“I played against him the week it happened,” Randolph said. “I had never met him until my team played his team. I had to guard him, he had to guard me, the week before that happened. He was the nicest, most upstanding guy. He couldn't have been a better sportsman. When that happened, the level of respect, the other teams, his teams, it was unbelievable. I was privileged and honored that I had the experience of meeting him.”

The Gallitos and Vaqueros played again shortly after Traylor’s death. Randolph and his teammates took courtside seats as the Vaqueros honored Traylor’s memory.

“They retired his jersey, brought his whole family in and had an hour-long presentation,” Randolph remembered. “They lifted his jersey up, had a video collage. It was very touching. I don't think there was a dry eye in the place.”

China?

As spring turned to summer, league play in Puerto Rico concluded and Randolph returned to North Carolina to plot his next move. Playing in the thriving pro-am scene, Randolph played with or against North Carolina and NC State players and recruits as well as a host of current NBAers. As with everyone playing professional basketball, though, the lockout cast a shadow over his next move.

A few years removed from his most recent full-time NBA paycheck and still getting used to life post-surgery, Randolph must decide whether to wait on the NBA and take another shot at cracking a roster or heading overseas, where the pay and playing time will be more immediate. Until this summer, Randolph had always postponed the international option, content to take his chances and hope for an NBA call.

After receiving some “very, very good” offers from Europe and going through a workout process, Randolph now says he is in the “advanced stages” of negotiating a one-year deal with a team in China. He’s scaled back on his pick-up play to avoid injury in recent weeks and considered, but decided to pass on playing in the Impact Basketball Competitive Training Series in Las Vegas for the same reason.

He says he is “very close” to signing and expects to make a final decision within the next week. The offer on the table is “equal to or greater than” what he would make signing a veteran minimum deal in the NBA.

“It's important for me to play this season,” Randolph said. “I just want to put myself in a situation where I can play. That's the most important thing for me. I miss playing.

“I'm not a player who will have a large, multi-year contract on the table. I know that's not my situation. My goal is to play in the NBA but, first and foremost, to play. It may be in my best interest to go play overseas in a situation where I know I’m going to play and play a lot because there is so much uncertainty here.”

Following a year that took him from hype to hospital to heartbreak, Randolph admits there would be an adjustment in heading to China, but that won’t guide this decision.

“I know some guys who have already signed to play and other guys in talks, considering going over there,” Randolph says. “I've talked to a few people who have played there. A few people who are going there this year. It's such a culture shock going over there but the bottom line is that you're playing basketball. I went and forfeited this past season by having surgery so I could go out and take advantage of any opportunity that's presented to me.”

Because it’s always about that next opportunity. No matter how wild and crazy the ride, or how long and winding the road, to get there might be.

“It's basketball,” Randolph concludes. “The only way you get better is by playing.”

 
 
 
 
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