Whispers surfaced in January that this would be Oden’s comeback year. Maybe not to where he could have been talent-wise, but at least to an NBA basketball court. The faint rumblings grew into cautious optimism. Rumors began to spread about the Miami Heat, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and even the Indiana Pacers, and were gradually validated by official reports of interest. However; 11 days into free agency, Oden remains available.
His miniscule window of possibility for the 2013-2014 season has rapidly shrunk to the size of a pinhole. The Heat re-signed center, Chris Andersen, to a 1 year, $1.7M deal yesterday, and the Cavaliers opted to take their chances with a different banged up big man, Andrew Bynum. There are few teams remaining that would even have an interest. Currently, Dallas is his best bet, but I doubt they’d risk it.
All in all, it’s too bad; the whole situation. Of course, Blazer fans already know. I wanted so desperately for him to find success, regardless of destination. Oden was unfairly maligned here in Portland after the big 3 of some alternate universe dissolved before our eyes, and he was made into the joke of the NBA as draft history’s biggest bust. A leaked cell phone picture of his pet anaconda and some bad PR didn’t help, and Oden turned to alcohol.
Now that he has turned himself back around years later, there is still no eye blind enough to make an NBA GM say, “Yup, the medical history checks out. He was drafted #1 you say? What a steal!” His laundry list of knee injuries will never be overlooked. Perhaps there will be a team desperate enough to sign him as a backup, but this year is beginning to look unlikely, and every birthday diminishes his odds.
If Greg Oden is unable to sign a contract with an NBA team this season, I believe his playing days are officially over. There will always be a nagging “what if” and background buzz, but Oden’s ongoing fight to return could be destined to remain an NBA sub-plot. I would mourn his decay and embrace the closure, but I know that for Greg it will never be over, and that breaks my Blazer heart.
So let’s all agree to live in a fantasy world where no matter what happens this year, Greg signs with the Pacers behind Roy Hibbert and Ian Mahinmi. It doesn’t hurt to imagine. He spends his days playing alongside 2013’s woulda-coulda-shoulda DPOY and finds a home on Indiana’s bench (it could still happen. Right? RIGHT?). Maybe he even gets a ring a few years down the line.
There is still a chance for him to sign with the Evel Kneivel of NBA risk takers (whoever that may be), but with his most viable suitors spoken for, I don’t see it happening. Watch him closely though. Free agents can sign at any time now. Just because the moratorium period has ended does not mean he’s out of the picture yet. Good luck, Greg.