It seems the Greg Oden revival is starting to gain steam. Despite not having played a single NBA game in the past three years, Oden has reportedly gained some suitors keeping a watchful eye on his rehabilitation.
Charlotte is one of those teams, Chris Broussard reports. Sure, say what you will about Broussard and his sources but this does make sense. The Bobcats are aching for more frontcourt talent, or heck, any at all. Plus Rich Cho, former Portland Trail Blazers GM, certainly has his own knowledge and connections with Oden. So there could certainly be some truth here.
To find out more about Oden, what situation would do him well and what he has left in the tank, I spoke with my friend Sean Highkin. Sean's a longtime fan and writer about the Trail Blazers, so I figured he would know a good deal about Oden.
To be honest with you, I'm not sure how much of a fit Oden is for a team like the Bobcats. The destinations that have always made the most sense in my mind are Phoenix (because of their training staff-they got a solid season out of Michael Redd last year), San Antonio (who can seemingly make anyone good again), and Miami (media attention focused elsewhere, no expectations on him to do anything offensively). The best path back to the NBA for him would be a team that doesn't need him and can afford to use a roster spot to take a flier on his health. The Bobcats have so few reliable big men that, provided he's healthy, he'd likely be asked to play a significant amount of minutes and take more credit or blame for their season than he should be in a position to receive. Anywhere he would be a major part of the team's game plan is the wrong fit at this point, because you simply cannot place the development of young, promising players like MKG and Kemba at the mercy of his knees.
I have no idea whatsoever about how close he is to being NBA-ready. He hasn't played in an NBA game since 2009, and had his third microfracture surgery less than a year ago. As a Blazers fan who will always take at least somewhat of an interest in his career, I've been keeping up with the reports about his comeback attempt. What I've been reading suggests that he won't be ready to play this season at all, and would sign a multiyear deal with a team and focus on rehabbing and getting acclimated with their training staff and team culture. For him to thrive, that environment really needs to be one like the Spurs, Heat, or Celtics, and not a team like the Bobcats where the majority of their players will likely not be there next year. And while the Bobcats organization has made considerable improvements under Rich Cho (who, by the way, wanted to cut ties with Oden altogether when he was GM in Portland, but was overruled by ownership), there's no comparison to the infrastructure that's in place in a franchise like San Antonio.
Couper Moorhead tweeted an interesting question a few weeks ago: Would you rather have your team sign Andrew Bynum to a max or near-max contract, or Oden to a one-year minimum-salary deal? I personally would opt for the latter, simply because of the lack of risk involved. But I'd only do it if I was an organization that didn't depend on him. I think the Bobcats would be better served to let someone else take the initial gamble on Oden, and if he proves he can play a full season and be as productive as he was before his 2009 injury, then it could be worth revisiting down the line.
I'm with Sean on this, too. I certainly wouldn't be opposed to signing Oden if the contract's OK and his health is managed well. However, I don't think he's a great fit in Charlotte because of those things. Purely for Oden's sake, it would be neat to see him in San Antonio or Miami, where he doesn't have any pressure. But if the Bobcats do somehow wind up with Oden, it'd be fine too, but the Bobcats would have to restrain themselves to ease Oden into the rotation slowly. The payoff could be decent depending on the contract. He's talented, without a doubt. Talent was never the issue.
But he must be surrounded by a healthy habitat.