Is Greg Oden going to make a difference in Miami? The only answer is “I don’t know.”

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The last time Greg Oden stepped on an NBA court to take part in a game it was Dec. 5, 2009. That would be 1,337 days ago. Or, 191 weeks, if you prefer. And there is a good chance you will not see Oden at the start of next season either — he said he wasn’t sure if he’d be ready when the season tips off. His goal is to be healthy at the season’s end. That’s a good goal, but reality is this is a guy that has had seven knee surgeries and three microfracture surgeries by age 25.

All of which is to say, temper your expectations here.

If you think signing Oden to a two-year is a big improvement for Miami, you’re way, way out in front of reality. If you picture Oden swatting way a Derrick Rose shot at the rim in the second round of the playoffs next year, or bodying up Roy Hibbert in the conference finals, you may never see those images with your eyes.

Could he do those things? Maybe, if healthy.

Will he do those things? I don’t know.

Neither do you. Neither does Oden or Pat Riley or Nostradamus or anyone else. Nobody knows if his body will hold up.

Every report I heard out of his workout was that he moved pretty well and seems in good shape. Witnesses said he looks the part of an NBA player again. I hope he is, I want to see him on a court and to have some redemption. But we simply do not know how this is going to go down — maybe he is playing at Thanksgiving, maybe at Christmas, maybe All Star weekend. Maybe he plays 20 games and has to shut it down. The Heat have said they planned to ease him back into the rotation and that was attractive to Oden in making his decision. He felt the pressure was off him.

This was a gamble by the Heat, but a good one for the price tag — they are paying him the league minimum. If he pans out and can give them 12-15 solid minutes a night come the playoffs, it will be almost a steal. What he came into the league with as strengths — defense in the paint, rebounds — are things the Heat need. When he has played in the NBA, he’s played pretty well (PER through 82 games of 19.5). Matching up with size is clearly an issue for the Heat (if you watched the playoffs last year) and maybe Oden can help them deal with it.

Maybe.

But based on history, don’t put a lot of stock in it.

It is far, far too early to think of him as a difference maker. He was a good risk for a prospect big man. Nothing more.

Sixers say injured Markelle Fultz will be re-evaluated in 2-3 weeks

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We were all waiting for supposed “good news” about injured Philadelpia 76ers guard and No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz. And it looks like we’ve got it? It’s hard to tell with this one.

On Sunday, the Sixers announced that Fultz — suffering from a sore right shoulder — would be re-evaluated in two to three weeks.

That’s at least some kind of timeline, which is more than we got when Fultz was originally ruled out indefinitely at the end of October.

Here’s the announcement from the Sixers.

Via Twitter:

Fultz has reportedly been working out and shooting left handed, which one can only hope is adding to his dexterity.

No doubt Sixers fans just want to see him on the court again as quickly as possible. The saga of the imbalanced shoulder has been a strange one, we’ve all got our fingers crossed that it settles normally.

Damian Lillard defends Blazers’ coach Terry Stotts on Instagram

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It’s far too early for panic in Portland. This is a team most outside Portland thought would finish a little above .500 and maybe grab one of the back-end playoff spots in the West, and at 9-7 they are on that pace.

But after an ugly Portland loss to Sacramento (just a few games after a loss to Brooklyn where coach Terry Stotts benched center Jusuf Nurkick for most of the fourth), Trail Blazers fans were restless and started to slam coach Stotts on the Trail Blazers’ Instagram page.

I doubt Stotts noticed, but Damian Lillard did and jumped in to defend his coach.

Lillard added this (hat tip Mike Richman at the Oregonian).

“Because people think they know more about what it takes to get things done at this level … For our team than they actually do,” he said. “We’re in this position for a reason. And coach Stotts had two 50-win seasons here and four straight years in the playoffs for a reason –because he knows what he’s doing. They mention … our record is 8-7 and we’re having breakdowns late in games. Well those breakdowns are a missed shot here, a turnover there, a defensive breakdown here, giving up extra possessions, missed free throws. It’s things that players control. If we were down 30 every game, that’s different. But we’re in position to win games. And when it’s time to win games, that’s the players’ job. “

Lillard is loyal to those around him and has had the back of teammates and his coach before.

Lillard and his teammates went out Saturday night and got some revenge on the Kings, winning 102-90.

Portland’s defense has been surprisingly good this season, second best in the NBA. It should have been better with Nurkic in the paint, but this has been a radical turnaround for a team where that end of the floor held them back in recent years. While that lofty ranking may not stick all season, the Blazers are defending.

Now the Blazers are just having trouble scoring efficiently (18th in the NBA), which is a little about a less-efficient Lillard and a rough start on that end for Nurkic.  That end of the court should come around, Lillard and C.J. McCollum are too good for it not to.

 

Teammate spoke to Lonzo Ball about walking away from “fight”

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We see these posturing/shoving matches all the time in the NBA, and they’re pointless. Late in Friday night’s Phoenix win in Los Angeles the Suns called a timeout, then Tyler Ulis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got in one a shoving match. As happens, players from both teams raced into the fray to protect their teammate/break it up… except for Lonzo Ball, who looked at it and kept moving along.

I have defended Ball’s actions as mature (he’s right, nothing was going to happen), while others (fans and media) have questioned his leadership for not rushing to stand by teammates, pull guys out of the pile, and having a “band of brothers” attitude.

None of that matters, the only opinions that carry any weight are the ones in the Lakers’ locker room. What did his teammates think? Lakers coach Luke Walton said a teammate did talk to Ball, quote via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“Someone on our team talked with him,” Walton said after the Lakers’ practice Saturday, without disclosing who it was. “It’s all part of the learning process.”

If his teammates were bothered, then there’s an issue. It’s more about perception than anything, again nothing was happening in that “fight,” but perception matters. It’s a small issue, but an issue. With young players this gets discussed, and everyone moves on.

Ball’s passing and energy on the court are things teammates love. As his game matures — and he eventually finishes better around the rim and, hopefully for him, finds his jumper — and he grows as a bigger threat on the court, his teammates will forget this ever happened. As will fans. But when you play for the rabid (and not always rational) fan base of the Lakers, and when your father invites publicity and with it scrutiny, things get blown out of proportion. Welcome to Lonzo’s world.

Marc Gasol kicks away Clint Capela’s shoe, earns technical

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Midway through the first quarter, Clint Capela literally came out of his shoe trying to move up to set a pick for James Harden. Just stepped right out of it. J.R. Smith wasn’t there to untie the laces or anything.

Capela turned around to go get his shoe, and Memphis’ Marc Gasol showed his soccer skills kicking the shoe away. That earned him a technical foul. Gasol could argue he just wanted to get something he could trip over off the court, but Capela was clearly coming back for it at that point. Gasol earned this one.

Capela retied his shoes and went on to have 17 points and 13 boards in Houston’s 105-83 win over shorthanded Memphis.