Greg Oden: "Is there any proof that I'm a bust?"

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Thumbnail image for goden_injury.jpgThis much is clear: Greg Oden has yet to work out like the Portland Trail Blazers had hoped. Three years into his NBA career he has played 82 games and had multiple injuries and surgeries to his knees.

But is he a bust?

Oden himself took exception to that characterization while speaking with Jason Quick of the Oregonian.

“Is there any proof that I’m a bust?” Oden said. “All there is proof of is that I have bad luck with injuries. When I was out there on the floor, I think I did pretty good for myself. I’ve never really had enough time to play and actually improve. I think last year at the beginning of the year I did OK, started to head down that path. Unfortunately I had an injury. But I’ve prepared myself all summer to be an All Star and be as healthy as I can be and I’m going to keep doing that until I’m able to do that …”

From our seat, bust isn’t the right word. We’ve been hard on him here, but still that’s a big label to put out there.

It’s too early. And bust implies a lack of effort or talent — that has not been Oden’s problem. The man has stopped drinking to help better prepare himself physically. But it is that body has betrayed him. Right now he wants to get back on the court but the doctors — and the Trail Blazers — are holding him off the court until he is 100 percent ready physically. Whenever that may be.

Oden is correct — when he has been on the floor he has been good. He had a PER of 23.1 in the 21 games before he went down last season. That’s Dirk Nowitzki/Pau Gasol level PER. He was impacting games, the Blazers were about 5 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the floor.

And he may yet overcome all the injuries, he could bounce back. For that reason the word “bust” does not fit.

It’s hard, because he comes up in comparison to the No. 2 pick in 2007, Kevin Durant. The league scoring leader. The guy who just lead the USA to gold at the World Championships. They guy being mentioned along with Kobe and LeBron as the best in the game.

Oden is not that. He very well may never be that. But it’s too early to rule him a bust yet.

Mavericks’ rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. misses game with knee swelling

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DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with swelling in his left knee.

Smith, the ninth pick in the NBA draft out of North Carolina State, had 16 points and 10 assists in the Mavericks’ season-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Smith participated in the Mavericks’ shootaround on Friday morning and was a late scratch. It is not known if Smith will play Saturday for Dallas.

The Mavericks were also missing guard Devin Harris, who was granted leave of absence after his brother died on Thursday.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”