A possible hiccup in Greg Oden's recovery

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Greg Oden’s rehabilitation isn’t exactly the most pressing thing on the Blazer agenda right now, but his value to the team long-term should be relatively unquestioned. He’ll likely always have the fact that he’s not Kevin Durant thrown in his face by fans ignorant to Oden’s successes, but Portland clearly values Greg not merely as an asset, but as an essential part of the team’s future.

The Greg Oden Tour wasn’t set to resume until next season anyway, but it’s still a bit worrisome to hear a report like this one from Ben Golliver of Blazers Edge:

Greg Oden’s comments during an interview on Tuesday regarding
his current status suggested that perhaps his rehab isn’t going totally
smoothly.  Oden, at home in Indiana, reported that he was mostly
staying off of his leg and icing it as much as possible when, as
recently as three weeks ago, Oden told Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune that he was riding bicycles and swimming in a pool.  In that same piece, Oden notes that running on an anti-gravity treadmill had caused soreness and swelling. 

“He’s doing fine. He’s doing fine,”
Nate McMillan told me after today’s practice. “The trainer is in
contact with him, making sure he’s doing what he needs to do. He’s
doing well.”  Asked directly if perhaps there had been some setback or
complication in recent weeks, McMillan shook his head no and said, “Our
trainer is up to speed with where he’s at. And he’s doing good.”

McMillan dismissed the idea, as he probably should. But should fans be worried if Oden’s rehab isn’t going as smoothly as planned?

On the one hand, it makes complete sense. Greg’s injury troubles in his young NBA career have already cost him two full seasons of action, and have rightfully put everyone on alert. He’s either injury-prone or terribly unlucky, and either way people are right to worry about Oden’s future.

Then again, this isn’t the first time that a rehab program hasn’t gone as planned and it certainly won’t be the last. What’s the use of fretting now, with half a year to go until Oden was supposed to make his grand return to the NBA? That’s more than enough time for Greg to get back on track, and to pay too much mind to his progress (or lack thereof) now seems foolish.

Still, we stay plugged into things like this because Greg Oden matters. Quite a bit, actually. Even if this supposed rehab setback is remarkably unremarkable and even though we really don’t have a firm understanding of Oden’s medical profile, we care about Greg not because he’s a convenient punchline, but because he’s still a remarkable talent capable of doing great things for the Blazer franchise.

I know that NBA teams and fans alike aren’t exactly oozing with patience, but that’s exactly what Oden needs.  

Thunder’s Taj Gibson providing scoring help for Westbrook

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Taj Gibson often describes his role for the Thunder as doing whatever the team needs.

For now, scoring is playing a bigger part than usual. The versatile 6-foot-9 power forward has found his way since being traded from Chicago and has emerged one of Oklahoma City’s few consistent offensive weapons alongside Russell Westbrook in the playoffs. He may need to keep it up to give the Thunder a chance of winning the first-round series with Houston – Oklahoma City trails 2-1 heading into Game 4 Sunday at home.

Gibson built a sterling reputation in Chicago, but the Brooklyn, New York native is more concerned with the respect he’s earned since his arrival.

“They see I’m in here late nights, early mornings, just constantly working with my teammates, constantly putting work in,” he said. “The confidence is going to be there because they understand you do the work, but I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help my team.”

Gibson has done a little bit of everything since coming to the Thunder. He has provided experience and versatility to an already stacked frontline that includes emerging young players Steven Adams and Enes Kanter. He also has added toughness, and at times, scoring punch. His athleticism and ability to guard on the perimeter against outside-shooting big men and on switches fills some of the void created when the Thunder traded Serge Ibaka on draft night this past offseason.

“Great vet,” guard Victor Oladipo said. “Great man, first and foremost. Very positive and does what it takes to win. It was a great pickup for us.”

Domantas Sabonis was the starting power forward when Gibson arrived in Oklahoma City, but once he got settled and began to understand coach Billy Donovan’s system, the Thunder improved. Gibson replaced Sabonis for the first time March 9 against San Antonio, and the Thunder went 11-5 with him in the starting lineup. He averaged 9.0 points and 4.5 rebounds in 21 regular-season games for the Thunder.

He is averaging 11 points on 65 percent shooting in the playoffs. He was effective on offense in Game 2, establishing himself early and helping put the Thunder in position to win. Oklahoma City went away from him late, and Houston rallied for the victory.

In Game 3, the Thunder went back to him consistently. a href(equals)’https://apnews.com/dab4b99c496a4450906c11a9c72132d1/Westbrook’s-triple-double-leads-Thunder-past-Rockets-115-113?utm-campaign=SocialFlow&utm-source=Twitter&utm-medium=AP-Sports’He finished with 20 points on 10-for-13 shooting in Oklahoma City’s 115-113 win/a on Friday night.

“Taj is a great post player,” Westbrook said. “He does a great job of getting in great position down low. When we see a matchup that we like we are going to keep going to him. Whether it is a miss or a make, it gives us the opportunity to score the basketball in the paint.”

Gibson did damage inside and out and punished the Rockets with his mid-range jumper.

“It’s no shock to me, just because that mid-range is automatic for him,” Thunder forward Doug McDermott, who also joined the Thunder in the trade with Chicago, said. “He’s tough to guard on that block too.”

Gibson also had a fast start in Game 2, but once the Thunder began to struggle, they went away from him. Gibson knew he didn’t need to change much going into Game 3.

“Just continue to be aggressive,” he said. “I felt like I had good shots in Game 2. Just got to stay with it and play the game as it flows to me.”

On defense, Gibson has been a better option than Kanter and Adams, who have struggled to keep up with the more athletic Rockets. Gibson performed well in all facets in Game 3, and Donovan needs more of that in Game 4.

“I was happy for him last night,” Donovan said Saturday. “I thought he gave us a great lift in both the first and second half. He’s professional, he’s a man, and he’s a reliable guy.”

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP .

Watch Kawhi Leonard, Mike Conley in epic playoff duel Saturday (VIDEO)

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Kawhi Leonard scored 16 straight points for the Spurs at the end of regulation to give San Antonio the lead and a chance. Then Mike Conley hit a floater in the lane forced overtime.

There Mike Conley hit a floating bank shot that had the Grizzlies up three with :47 seconds left, only to have Leonard answer with a three to tie the game. Marc Gasol would break that tie and get Memphis the series-evening win.

Conley and Leonard traded blows through the clutch parts of Saturday’s epic Game 4 between Memphis and San Antonio. It’s worth checking out the highlights again.

John Wall goes coast-to-coast, behind-the-back for lefty dunk (VIDEO)

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There’s not going to be many plays better than this in the entire playoffs.

There wasn’t a lot for Wizards’ fans to cheer in Game 3, the Hawks took control early and routed Washington, making it a 2-1 series. But there was this, John Wall going coast-to-coast with the ball, going around-the-back and throwing it down left handed.

Wall is just so fast end to end.

Warriors take 3-0 series lead over Blazers with 119-113 win

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Stephen Curry scored 34 points, Klay Thompson added 24 and the short-handed Golden State Warriors overcame a slow start to take a 3-0 lead in their playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers with a 119-113 victory on Saturday night.

The Blazers led by as many as 17 points in the first half, but couldn’t hold off the Warriors, who can clinch the series with a win Monday night in Game 4 at the Moda Center.

Golden State was without Kevin Durant, who was sitting for a second straight game cause of a left calf strain, and coach Steve Kerr stayed back at the team hotel because of illness.

The Warriors took a 108-100 lead after Andre Iguodala‘s dunk with 4:05 to go.

Noah Vonleh‘s dunk got Portland within four at 110-106 with 1:29 left, but Curry answered with a 3-pointer that all but sealed it, sending fans streaming for the exits.

CJ McCollum led the Blazers with 32 points, while Damian Lillard added 31.