The Blazers are this close to receiving sweet closure for the Oden era. Greg has not played for Portland since March of 2012, and has not played for Portland since December of 2009, but until he has a new franchise to call home, Blazer fans will remain the sole heirs to his injury precluded legacy. According to his agent, Bill Duffy, Oden may announce his free agent destination as soon as tomorrow.
The frontrunners are now believed to be the Miami Heat and the New Orleans Pelicans. Both teams have very distinct draws, and which team Oden chooses will say a lot about how he wants to remake his name in the NBA.
If Oden selects the Heat, he will have a chance to contribute to a possible 3rd consecutive NBA title and immediately quiet his doubters with a shiny new ring, right out of the gate. However, in this course of action, failure is not an option. There is no spotlight hotter than Miami’s right now, and public scrutiny is the last thing a physically and emotionally fragile player needs during a comeback run.
This is why I believe he should choose the Pelicans. The team has been renamed, the roster has been rebuilt, and it is the definition of a fresh start. Oden would have the opportunity to contribute even more, while avoiding the glare of the big city. The Pelicans are too good for Oden to drop off of the radar, yet too bad for him to crumble under the pressure of contention. It’s perfect. Plus, the cultural melting pot of New Orleans’ nightlife could make up for the lack of palm trees and celebrities.
There is also money to consider. The Heat are in possession of a $3.2 million exception that they could use to woo Oden, however, they have not indicated an interest in paying him more than the $1 million minimum. The Pelicans reportedly tossed the number $3 million around when negotiating with Oden. If I’m Greg, I’m taking the offer worth three times more. Unless the Heat are willing to use their exception, the Pelicans are my favorites to win his services.
Either way, the sooner he puts Portland behind him, the sooner Blazer fans can put him behind them. I’ve supported Greg throughout his tenure, but I am not above the humor derived from tragedy. I will continue to cheer him on, yet celebrate his clean slate in my brand new, used, semi-ironic, #52, Greg Oden jersey shirt. Who knows? Maybe the Pelicans or Heat will end up with far more marketable apparel.