July 17, 2008
On Wednesday, young Blazers center Greg Oden jumped on the phone at Gatorade's High School Athlete of the Year luncheon in Hollywood to answer a few quick questions about his knee, Rip City expectations, bloggin', Rihanna and more. Enjoy.
J.E. Skeets: Before we get into the questions, I just want to clear something up. There's been a lot of transactions this past week, a lot of moves, so I just want to make sure that you're still indeed a Portland Trail Blazer.
Greg Oden: I definitely am. As far as I know.
Skeets: Kevin Pritchard hasn't traded you to Minnesota for like, 18 second-round draft picks or something crazy?
Oden: (laughs) I hope not.
Skeets: OK, good. Well, let's start with an obvious first question: How is the right knee? Are you back to feeling 100 percent since the microfracture surgery?
Oden: The right knee is feeling good. You know, with this type of surgery, realistically I don’t know when I'm going to be 100 percent. I know I’m going to be good enough to play and give it my all, but as I told a couple of guys standing here, yeah, it's going to feel uncomfortable. But you just play through that.
Skeets: But we can expect to see you opening night, right?
Oden: Oh, definitely. I hope so. If everything turns out the way I want it to.
Skeets: Do you think sitting out a year — taking the game in from the sidelines — helped or hindered your overall NBA progress?
Oden: To be honest with you, being able to sit and watch the game with not having that pressure of playing, and being able to travel with the guys and not have to play and be dead tired, it was actually good. You become a lot more mature; you adapt to the life. Now I know what I need to do.
Skeets: I can only assume that last season was the most time you'd ever spent away from organized basketball since you started playing. How difficult was it to adjust to that, and what did you do to stay busy?
Oden: I was in the weight room. I also got on the court, and shot as much as I could, but being in the weight room ... and just having good teammates keep me in the loop kept my confidence high. It wasn't like I was down on myself. I felt apart of the game, man. But, yeah, I was in the weight room most of the time just trying to get big for next year.
Skeets: Along with rehabbing the knee, what fundamentals did you focus on during the missed season?
Oden: The jump shot was a big thing — the jump shot and my touch around the basket. They didn't want me doing too much on the knee for a while, so I just took it slow. I got a lot of jump shots up in that time.
Skeets: As usual, the Blazers had a busy draft night wheeling and dealing first- and second-round picks. When the smoke cleared, you guys were left with Jerryd Bayless, Nicolas Batum and a few thousand second-round draft picks. How would you rate the Blazers' overall draft and what's impressed you the most about Bayless in summer league action?
Oden: I haven't seen him. I've heard he's doing pretty well, though.
Skeets: Oh, you haven't seen him play yet?
Oden: I haven't. The only thing I've seen him in is clips on YouTube.
Skeets: OK, well, yeah, he's doing really well. In fact, he's lighting them up in summer league. He gets the ball to the rack at will.
Oden: Really? Well, that's going to be a good thing then.
Skeets: What goals or expectations do you have for the team this year?
Oden: That we win more games than we did last year.
Skeets: So, playoffs?
Oden: I would love for that to happen. The ultimate goal is to win it all, but you also want to do better than you did the year before so you know you're improving.
Skeets: Let's switch it up and get away from the ball-related questions for a minute. Asking on behalf of the Internet, what's the current hairstyle? Are you still rockin' the mohawk?
Oden: I am not rockin' the mohawk. I am rockin' the long beard with short hair, like LeBron. I could only stand the mohawk for about two weeks, but after that I was like, meh, I got to do something with this. It was ridiculous. I wasn't keeping up on it like I should have.
Skeets: Well, you haven't seen Bayless play, but I'm hoping you've heard about the healthy blogging' competition coming from within your own locker room. So, who's the better blogger: you or Channing Frye?
Oden: (laughs) Ah, I have heard about this. I don't know exactly what Channing's doing, when he does his, but, just because I love myself, I'm going to go ahead and say I'm the better blogger than him.
Skeets: (laughs) Good reasoning. Well, let me tell you one thing he recenty wrote. Channing had a great post about how Portland is sort of a weird city — it has a lot of characters — and he likes it. Do you think that Portland is a good fit for you, since it allows you to not have to play that super-duper-star athlete?
Oden: I like that. I didn't even know how I was going to word it, but that's exactly what it is. You know, being the number one draft pick in a major city, I probably would've been thrown into a crazy, superstar-athlete role — looked at differently. But with me being in Portland, everyone is really friendly here and no one has that mentality.
Skeets: Back to your blog, I read that you recently attended a Kanye/Rihanna concert in Portland. You've got to tell us, man, what the hell happened when you met Rihanna after the show? "Um, who are you?" That's the best you came up with?
Oden: (laughs) You know, I was thinking all of these little lines that were going to make her fall in love with me, and none of them came out. It was just one of those, "oh, who are you, again?" It got a little giggle from her, but that was it. After she stopped giggling I was hitting myself in the head.
Skeets: Oh, you were going with the sarcastic approach, were you?
Oden: Yeah, I really was.
Skeets: Ah, see, I read it differently on the blog. Now that you explain it, I see where you were going. But still, c'mon, you're Greg freakin' Oden!
Oden: I don't know. I mean, when you see someone that beautiful ... I just froze up, man, I didn't know what to do.
Skeets: OK, final question, because I hear them yelling at you to wrap it up. It's a little tradition here at Ball Don't Lie to end all interviews with a completely random last question. So, if you could take any two animals — any two at all — and breed them together to create some "super animal," which two animals would you pick?
Oden: Monkey and bird. I want a flying monkey.
Skeets: (laughs) That was quick.
Oden: When you said "animal," a monkey just popped into my head, and I was like, man, who doesn't want to fly?
Skeets: Ha. All right, Greg, thanks so much for your time today. Best of luck this upcoming season, man.
Oden: Thank you very much, sir.