Blazers president Miller plans to give Oden $8.8 million qualifying offer this off-season

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Blazers president Larry Miller is going to have to make some tough decisions regarding perennially injured center Greg Oden’s future over the next couple of years. On the one hand, it can’t be fun to devote resources to a player when you don’t know when he’ll actually be playing NBA basketball, let alone if he’ll ever return to 100%. On the other hand, how terrible would the Blazers feel of Oden actually got healthy and started playing up to his potential for another team?

Since being drafted in 2007, Oden has played in exactly 82 games and has had, essentially, a promising rookie campaign. He’s raw offensively, turns it over too much, and doesn’t have enough post moves to be a 15-20 point a night scoring threat yet. He’s a fearsome shot-blocker and one of the best rebounds in the NBA, but commits too many silly fouls.

If he woke up tomorrow morning magically healthy, he’d be one of the best true centers in basketball, as well as somebody a defense could be built around. Oden doesn’t need to learn anything or add any skills to be a very, very good NBA player at a position where it’s very hard to find very, very, good players — he just needs to not get hurt. This isn’t Dwight Howard adding an 18-foot jumper or a McHale-like set of post moves we’re talking about, or Amar’e Stoudemire learning defensive rotations and how to box out — it’s being able to run and jump and not getting injured in the process. What if, after recovering from this injury, Oden just stopped getting hurt and didn’t suffer a major injury for a few years? It happened for Grant Hill. It happened for Zydrunas Ilgauskas. It didn’t happen for Bill Walton. It has happened for just about every other player in the league.

As a player and a prospect, Greg Oden is clearly worth keeping around, even if he has to miss a good chunk of the 2010-11. It’s Greg Oden’s knees that nobody wants to be in business with, but Miller is looking at Oden as a player rather than a set of problems. Here’s what the Blazers president had to say about Oden today:

“If Greg Oden plays up to his potential he is worth that,” Miller said of the $8.8 million qualifying offer. “We will see where (rehabilitation) things are at that level. But at this point, I don’t see us not giving the offer if Greg is doing the things we need to see him doing to get back on the court. That’s how I feel. If he is doing those things, we want to keep Greg around. I don’t feel like I’m ready to give up on Greg Oden. I don’t think anybody in our organization is ready.”

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.”