Greg Oden(notes) knows that he can't dodge the Sam Bowie comparisons. Sitting at his home, the often-injured center acknowledged that before watching his Portland Trail Blazers play the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday evening.
Once Oden returns to play, as he strongly expects, will the free agent be helping the Blazers or another team?
"Some people may think it's best for me being out of [Portland], getting out of that mode of being injured or Sam Bowie talk," Oden said. "Some people are probably saying, 'You owe the Blazers for four years.'
"I don’t know. For me, I just want to get out there and play. … I just want to get on the court and compete because that’s something I’ve been missing the past two years."
Big things were expected from Oden when the Blazers selected him as the first overall pick in the 2007 draft over Kevin Durant(notes). Injuries have derailed his promise, but Oden is just 23 years old, enough time to turn things around and distance himself from Bowie, the Trail Blazer best known as the man picked before Michael Jordan in the 1984 NBA draft.
Oden hasn’t played since December of 2009, when he needed surgery to repair a fractured left patella. He was averaging 11.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks at the time of the injury. That setback came off the heels of a lost rookie season (right knee micro-fracture surgery) and a '08-'09 season where he missed 21 games (foot, kneecap injuries).
He says his current rehab, from November's micro-fracture surgery on his left knee, includes weightless squats, leg strength and balancing exercises, and cardio. The 7-footer, who has played in only 82 games in his career, hopes to get back on the floor to do light shooting without movement sometime later this month. He is "aiming" for a complete return by November.
Oden misses the game. After watching his Blazers fall to the Hornets, he lingered on the night's highlights, watching them three times along with other games.
"It’s kind of brought back the love of the game through humbling you," Oden said of his injuries. "You go out there and do it. Some people might not work as hard on their game. But when it’s taken away for two years that’s all you want to do is go back on the basketball court and do whatever you can."
The projected NBA lockout could aid Oden's hopes of getting a better contract as each passing day would give him more time to heal and get stronger before next season. Portland declined to offer Oden an extension prior to the season. The Blazers, however, have from the day the Finals end until June 30 to extend an $8.8 million qualifying offer. Oden said he and his agent, Bill Duffy, haven't had recent contract talks with Portland.
Expect the Blazers to make a qualifying offer that would keep him from being snatched by another team and force him to be a restricted free agent if he declines, a source told Yahoo! Sports.
"Who wouldn’t want to play with those guys?" Oden said of the Blazers. "Watching them, it’s definitely a fun atmosphere and it looks like they are having a good time. They’re still winning. That’s always a plus."
Oden cannot accept or decline a qualifying offer until after the next collective bargaining agreement is in place. If there is a prolonged lockout and Oden regains his health, it will be interesting to see how much interest he could garner as a restricted free agent by declining the qualifying offer.
"This year being my contract year, it’s definitely hard on me and my future," Oden said. "Right now, I can’t control it. All I can do is get my body to where it needs to be and be ready when the time comes."
As for the Bowie talk, only a healthy and productive Oden can end that.
Source: Morris twins courted for pros
Kansas’ Marcus and Markieff Morris are close to signing with aspiring agent Jason Martin, a source said.
The Jayhawks’ twin brothers met with Martin on Wednesday in Beverly Hills, Calif., the source said. Martin also treated the twins to a night of entertainment on Thursday at the Eden nightclub in Hollywood, another source said.
While there has been talk that Philadelphia 76ers guard Jrue Holiday is represented by Martin, he has no listed NBA players as clients. Despite not being a registered agent in the NBA, several other sources have said that Martin is being aggressive on the scene. His eyes are also on Colorado guard Alec Burks, Baylor forward Perry Jones and Texas forward Jordan Hamilton, according to sources.
Martin is also in the mix for Tyler Honeycutt, a sophomore forward who has already declared for the draft.
The junior forwards from Kansas have yet to declare. Such contact with an agent could make it tough for them to return to school without facing potential NCAA scrutiny.
Different year, same decision for Wall
If the Washington Wizards' John Wall(notes) had stayed in school this season, the threat of an NBA lockout wouldn't have kept him from entering this summer's draft – nor should it prevent any other top 10 prospect, the rookie said.
“It’s kind of tough with the lockout, but you never know if you will have an injury [in college],” said Wall, last year's No. 1 NBA draft pick out of Kentucky. “You can get an advance from your agent or business manager or somebody and just pay them back as you get paid. I don’t think a lockout is going to last a whole year or two years. You’re going to miss out a little bit. But the opportunity to get drafted and go high? I would take it.”
Injury concerns was a primary reason Kentucky coach John Calipari prodded Wall to leave for the pros.
“ ‘Cal’ told me, ‘If this is the best opportunity, best situation with a chance of going high, go,’ ” Wall said. “ ‘No reason to come back and jeopardize anything. What if you have a career-ending injury or your stock drops and you have to stay two or three more years?’ ”
UNC's Barnes uncertain
North Carolina freshman forward Harrison Barnes told Yahoo! Sports he is still undecided on whether to enter the draft. The deadline is April 24.
The 6-foot-8, 210-pounder plans to return to his hometown of Ames, Iowa to speak in-depth with his mother before making a decision. Barnes, who had a strong showing in the NCAA tournament, is widely considered a top five prospect after averaging 15.7 points and 5.8 rebounds in the regular season. But a potential NBA lockout would be a big reason for him to stay put in college.
“Right now I’m in no rush,” Barnes said. “I’m getting as much information as possible.”
Assessing Final Four stars
Several players in the Final Four have strengthened their draft status. One NBA scout said:
• Virginia Commonwealth senior forward Jamie Skeen has gone from undrafted to a second-round pick.
• Connecticut junior guard Kemba Walker is now a solid lottery pick.
• Kentucky freshman Brandon Knight is a lottery pick as the second-best point guard prospect behind Duke’s Kyrie Irving.
• Kentucky freshman forward Terrence Jones should return to school, although he would be a first-rounder because of his size, skills and potential.
• Butler junior guard Shelvin Mack should return to school since he is a second-round prospect.
• Butler senior forward Matt Howard is a second-rounder.
Return from Japan
The deadly earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March 11 sent several former NBA players packing from the country. The ex-NBA players included Richie Frahm, Robert Swift(notes), Charles O’Bannon, Kenny Satterfield, Jerald Honeycutt, Japan native Yuta Tabuse and J.R. Sakuragi (formerly J.R. Henderson).
NBA draft prospect Jeremy Tyler has also returned home. About the only ex-NBA player still playing there right now is Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf for Kyoto Hannaryz.
Sakuragi recalled to Yahoo! Sports how he and Frahm, teammates for the Aishin Sea Horses, ran down 14 flights of stairs to depart from a Tokyo hotel during the earthquake.
“The building was pretty much rocking from side to side,” said Sakuragi, who has been playing in Japan since 2002. “When we tried to go to the other stairwell down the hallway we were pretty much being thrown from side to side hitting both walls.
"Everyone followed us out of there. They were panicking. I ran down 14 flights with no shoes on with a sprained MCL. When I finally got down to the bottom, I was in a lot of pain to say the least.
“I would say about 30 seconds after we got out the door it stopped shaking. We were standing outside by a bus stop when another aftershock came. We weren’t going back into the hotel for awhile.” Sakuragi, who is currently traveling around the United States, says he'll return to Japan once his league resumes play next season.
An NBA source said it would be shocking if Arizona sophomore forward Derrick Williams didn’t enter the draft. … The Utah Jazz had a possible deal in place to send guard Deron Williams(notes) to the New York Knicks in a multi-player trade if the Carmelo Anthony(notes) deal didn’t go through, a source told Yahoo! Sports. After Anthony was dealt to New York, Williams was traded from Utah to the Nets on Feb. 24. … One NBA head coach said he expects the lockout to last until February of 2012 at best.
- Jason Martin