Portland Trail Blazers v Chicago Bulls

Greg Oden chose Heat because they won’t need him early, dinner at Chili’s


Former No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden chose the Miami Heat on Friday night in a move that was widely-anticipated for awhile, but never quite confirmed until the numerous reports erupted across the internet. Most speculated he would choose the Heat because they’re the back-to-back NBA champions, but the oft-injured center gave a few other reasons that made him decide to take his talents to South Beach.

Oden and his agent spoke to Grantland, ESPN and Fox Sports Florida after the decision became public, saying that the ability to work himself back slowly was one of the reasons he decided on the two-year deal with the Heat.

Oden said it was a “big deciding factor” that Heat officials made it clear to him that he “wouldn’t be needed as much early in the season” as he works his way back from more than three years out of the league.

The place that he learned he wouldn’t be needed early was the more interesting story, though, as Oden’s agent — Mike Conley, Sr. — told Fox Sports Florida that his meeting with head coach Erik Spoelstra had a profound effect on his decision.

“He really liked talking with Erik at Chili’s,” Conley said. “I think that played a major role. He just felt very comfortable with him.”

Dinner at Chili’s isn’t usually a precursor to closing the deal, but it apparently worked the Heat. That and the fact that Oden felt wanted in South Beach, anyway.

“Obviously the chance to play with the best player in the world and compete for a championship was a big selling point,” Oden told me. “But more than that, what I really liked was how they thought I could really add something to their team. They’ve won back-to-back championships without me, so for them to pursue me as hard as they did meant a lot, especially given all that I’ve gone through.”

It’s going to be interesting watch what sort of scrutiny is put on Oden as he gets ready to play in his first NBA game since December of 2009, especially since he’s fully aware that he isn’t ready to contribute quite yet.

“I’m not going to sit here and say I’m 100 percent,” Oden added. “I am moving (well) and I am feeling good, but I have a lot of work to do.”

If Oden’s ever back to 100 percent, however, it seems the Heat got a steal of a deal. And, if not, spending the veteran’s minimum to find out was a pretty good gamble regardless.

Somebody looks comfortable: Paul George drops 20 in first quarter

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Paul George‘s first experience starting as a power forward was going up against Anthony Davis — not just one of the best power forwards in the game, one of the handful of best players in the game period. That didn’t go well for George, and he wasn’t happy about it.

His second experience was in another preseason game Tuesday, going up against the Pistons and their four, Ersan İlyasova. He’s not quite as intimidating.

George scored 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting, 4-of-5 on threes — and that was just the first quarter (you can see it all in the video above).

As we have said before, George at the four is not a bad call by the Pacers, but some of that depends on the matchup. On the nights the Pacers face Davis or Blake Griffin or LaMarcus Aldridge or Zach Randolph (or a handful of others) the Pacers’ coaching staff is going to have to adjust. But there are a lot of nights where George at the four is going to force the other team to adjust, and that will play into the Pacers’ hands.

Is DeMarcus Cousins MVP worthy? “It’s mine to grab”

DeMarcus Cousins

Last season, DeMarcus Cousins received zero MVP votes (the same as every year of his career). Even though he averaged 24.1 points, and 12.7 rebounds a game, which was enough to get him his first All-Star berth, MVP is another thing entirely. Only players on winning teams tend to draw the attention of MVP voters.

This season, can Cousins — arguably the best center in the game — get in the conversation?

He thinks it’s more than just that, he told Kevin Ding at Bleacher Report.

The topic is the 2015-16 NBA MVP award and whether it could be reachable for DeMarcus Cousins.

“Reachable, man?” Cousins told Bleacher Report, his voice rising high. “It’s mine to grab.”

As noted above, the only way Cousins gets into the conversation — fair or not — is if the Kings are in the playoffs (at the very least). He understands that.

“It’s going to take a full team effort,” Cousins said. “I’ll try to play at a high level and bring my team along with me.”

Vlade Divac built a Kings’ team designed to start winning now — as you would expect from a team a year away from moving into a new arena they need to fill. Owner Vivek Ranadive is not about selling hope anymore, he wants to sell wins.

I think Cousins can help provide that.

I’m less sold on the cast around him being able to help.