For a man that hasn't played an NBA game since December of 2009, former top overall pick Greg Oden sure has been in the news a whole heck of a lot since last spring. Possibly due to the intrigue inherent in the near-tragic loss of what could have been a Hall of Fame career following myriad injuries, we suspect. Greg's back, though again not by his on-record thoughts, as Oden's agent (and father of the Memphis Grizzlies point man that shares his name) Mike Conley told Fox's Chris Tomasson that he is considering going back on the thought process that led him to conclude that he might sit out the entire 2012-13 season.
Short recap: Greg Oden wants to play basketball next season. From Tomasson's report:
"(Oden) called me, and he was kind of excited,'' Conley said in a phone interview with FOX Sports Florida. "I think he's motivated …. He wants to play. He had said he wanted to take this season off, but he's backed off from that …. He's open to playing this season. I think he will play this season.''
If this is all very confusing, we're here to help.
Back in February, after another setback, it was discovered that Oden's knee wasn't even healthy enough to operate on. The Portland Trail Blazers officially released him in March, as they readied their rebuilding project, and later we wondered if the team's staff may have been negligent in helping a possibly just-as negligent Oden rehab his knee. Later, in a very candid interview, Oden revealed that his inaction and frustration in Portland led him to drink too much. And for all the noise about Greg over the last five months, this remains the only interview he's given during this spell.
His agent has talked quite a bit, though, because that's what player representatives are supposed to do. And in an interview that reminds of the one he gave the Miami Herald last May (as relayed by our Eric Freeman), when Conley talked up Oden's interest in the Heat. As if the Heat couldn't get any more famous.
"Obviously, if the Heat wanted him, who wouldn't want to play for the Heat?'' Conley said of the defending champions. "That goes without saying. They have roster spots and a need (at center). But it's too early to say about where he might play.''
For now, Conley said Oden is as excited as he's been in a long time. He pointed out it was Oden who called him unsolicited to express a willingness to play this season.
"He's going to sign somewhere,'' Conley said. "He's going to get healthy and be coming back.''
We understand the ants in pants. Sitting out the entire 2012-13 while rehabbing would mean that Oden's debut to start 2013-14 would mark the 83rd time he'd played an NBA game some 76 months after being drafted by the Trail Blazers. That's hard to stomach for any competitor, much less one as clearly talented and seemingly NBA-ready as Oden.
Oden hasn't been NBA-ready, not by a long shot, for the entirety of his career. And though advancements in his rehabilitation and the massive amounts of both rest and recuperation could change that for the better (or, possibly, for good), all that's been proven about Greg Oden is that he is very tall, he is very talented, and his body has been unable to withstand the rigors of NBA play.
And as much as we adore watching a 7-footer dominate on both ends of the ball in professional play, we're almost rooting for Oden to sign off on the entire 2013-14 as much as we're rooting for safe returns. Because mixing the two might not result in the creation of the latter. Conley even admits that there is no timetable for a potential 2012-13 return, and that the "seven" NBA teams that have contacted him about his client won't get serious about their efforts until training camp comes around in the autumn.
We would just appreciate patience, in Oden's possibly last great chance. A midseason return would come just days after his 25th birthday, and at this point in his career there's no real difference in age with so many seasons spent watching from the sideline. There's no shame in making that Big Return at age 25 and 10 months, as opposed to 25 and 10 days.
We also get the decision on that particular timing, in spite of the interest in Oden, won't be up to the big center. Possibly for the best.