December 08, 2011
On Sunday, Yahoo!'s own Marc Spears reported that Greg Oden would accept the Blazers' qualifying offer of $8.8 million and stay in Portland for the 2011-12 season. On Thursday, that news became official when agent Bill Duffy said his client would agree to that deal (via Jason Quick on Twitter). So, Oden will play another season in Rip City, except as of now it looks like he won't be back on the court any earlier than January. Which is in a month, so maybe that's fine.
Based on prior production, Oden is not worth anything close to $8.8 million for this season. However, in the 82 games in four seasons he's actually played, he's been pretty good, showing good skills as a shot-blocker and rebounder with the potential to improve on offense. In other words, he makes it pretty clear why he was selected first overall in a draft that also included Kevin Durant, even if that decision didn't work out for Portland whatsoever.
The issue for Oden, of course, is that there's no certainty he'll ever be able to stay on the court. This one-year agreement, then, is the best situation for both parties. If Oden is ready to play, as he believes he will be, then he has a chance to prove himself right before going on the open market as an unrestricted free agent. He'll be able to take the best offer, wherever that may be, and plan out the next few years with some measure of agency for the first time in this career. Then again, if Oden can't stay healthy, then the Blazers aren't beholden to him for any longer and can finally choose to part ways with a player who remains more a sign of what might have been than of what could still be. If they decide there's no point in keeping him around, they'll have done so with the knowledge that they gave Oden as many chances as could reasonably be expected of any team.
It's an unfortunate situation for both Oden and the Blazers, but given the last four years of his career it's the best thing for all involved. At this point, a long-term commitment can only lead to more heartbreak. They need to operate as if everything were a contingency plan.