RESPONSE TO A READER'S QUESTION ABOUT GREG ODEN
A reader of this blog recently left a message asking if I would comment on what Greg Oden of the Trailblazers needs to do to become what fans had hoped he would be in the NBA --- a true force at center. The reader also inquired if I would work with Greg if asked by the Trailblazers to do so.
Second issue first. I’m always open to helping any ballplayer. However, I suspect that in the “young eyes” of most basketball organizations, I’m rapidly becoming part of sports history. Low post players of my era are not too far removed from dinosaurs! Still, if the phone rings I’d sure answer it!
As to Greg. It’s very difficult to comment in that a true evaluation of his potential can only be made if and when he is healthy enough to play sustained minutes over the course of a season. I believe he has put in less that a hundred games and, although his performance showed promise (especially in rebounding and shot blocking), it’s tough to draw hard conclusions from what we’ve seen so far.
What can be said is that, injuries aside, he possesses natural athleticism and power. That is both a plus and a potential minus. Many young players grow to rely overly-much on their sheer strength. I believe I was a physically strong players, as were legends such as Wilt Chamberlain. That only gets you so far. A strong young ballplayer like Greg Oden will also need to pay a lot of attention to learning proper footwork and low post moves to truly take advantage of his physical gifts. I’m not saying he needs to be an offensive superstar but he does need to develop the finer skills necessary to always be a threat to the defenses. In short, he needs to focus on out-thinking his opponents in addition to over-powering them.
The other advice that I would give has nothing to do with physical attributes. It has to do with the fact that, having had to endure so many injuries, Greg Oden’s real challenge in the near-term will be mentally readjusting to the professional game at the highest level. To do this he needs to work closely with the coaching staff and his team mates to understand how and where he fits into the scheme of things. He should not feel that he needs to carry the entire burden of the team on his shoulders but, rather, look for the best ways to work within the system to contribute at optimum levels while his body and his mind get back into the flow of the game.