June 29, 2011
We understand why the Portland Trail Blazers might hedge before extending a qualifying offer for the 2011-12 season to oft-injured and currently rehabbing center Greg Oden(notes). This is a man who might very well make it to the 2012 calendar year, regardless of a lockout, with just 82 games under his belt in 4 1/2 combined seasons. On top of that, the qualifying offer (which Portland has until midnight on Thursday to send his way) is worth a whopping $8.8 million, crazy money for a rookie deal, but par for the course amongst top draft picks.
The money wouldn't be spent on Oden the player, though. This would be an attempt to cling to Oden the asset. Not that Portland is going to trade him to another team, NBA cap bylaws make that very complicated when dealing with players working under their QO years, but because it gives Portland a better chance to hang onto Oden should he ever find a way to make it to one start to an end of a season without breaking anything. If that sounds cruel and cynical, well, welcome to the NBA.
Dwight Jaynes, longtime Portland scribe, thinks that the extended offer is a no-brainer, and even while we accept that it's not our money to spend, and don't really think "a teetering Marcus Camby(notes)" is a problem in the middle (my man, 25 NBA teams have a "problem in the middle"), the rest of his reasoning is sound.
Funny thing, though. As dependent as the Trail Blazers are going to be on Oden next season for any real improvement, a long lockout may be just what the doctor ordered. All indications are that Oden won't be fully recovered and ready to play until January. That may be right about the time the NBA players come to their senses and accept the whipping they're going to take at the bargaining table.
A 50-game season would be the perfect prescription for Oden. The last time the league went to one of those abbreviated seasons, of course, it had to jam three-games-in-three-nights situations into the schedule and Oden would probably have to sit out the middle of those games, but no matter.
Call me a teetering optimist, but I see this as a necessary transaction regardless of the lockout, and any truncated season.
This sounds like a bad joke, but Oden has built up a close relationship with the training staff in Portland, and to send him on his way this summer would just be as cruel as it gets. Locked out players are not supposed to be in contact with team officials of any capacity during a lockout, but to know that Oden wouldn't be hooking back up with the Trail Blazers' staff that have given so much to him at the end of the lockout's particular tunnel? Harsh work, Portland.
That's assuming they decline the offer, which even in these tough economic times, and even as the league opens itself up to criticism for overpaying players, just seems like a ridiculous notion.
I mean, they have to extend an offer to Oden, right? Right?