You’re going to read a lot more positive pieces about Greg Oden in the coming months. The poor guy’s a restricted free agent this summer and he and his agent have to try and put as positive a spin on his situation as possible. So while Oden in his two previous season-ending knee surgeries (geez, stop and think about that) was morose, depressed, and angry, he’s now going to sound more upbeat, positive and seem like he’s saying all the right things. He can no longer afford to turn down interviews or back away from attention. He needs it for his career. Like the piece in the Indianapolis Star today, featuring this delightful quote.
A fresh start with a new team might help Oden, although he doesn’t see it that way. He wants to remain in Portland.
“I want to get out there, dominate and do all that for me,” Oden said. “At this time, it’s more about thinking about what I can do to better myself and show my talents out there on the court.”
That’s a strong word from the kid, but you can understand why he’s saying it. Unfortunately, the facts lead more to the idea that he’ll never dominate. Even with all that size, all that talent, the surgeries he’s had to endure will take their toll. They’ll rob him of some burst, some vertical, some coordination. It’ll make it that much harder to get back into playing shape, that much harder to just reach the level he was at before the latest round of injuries, which was good, but wasn’t elite. He had some great games, had shown the possibility that he was going to be everything everyone believed he would be. But then the shattered kneecap, and then the torn ligament once the break had healed. The windows for athletes is small.
Everyone will be rooting for Oden this summer, and beyond. We all want to believe he can overcome the odds, get back to playing without injury, and dominate the NBA as the next great big man. But should the Blazers elect to pass on Oden’s contract in the midst of a rebuilding effort, should it come to that, teams will have to look at Oden and not contemplate him dominating. They just need to see if they can get a half-season of solid play from him.
The big man is going to have to start very small.
Kobe Bryant said he traveled by helicopter to spend more time with kids
Traffic started getting really, really bad. Right? And I was sitting in traffic, and I wound up missing a school play, because I was sitting in traffic. And these things just kept mounting. I had to figure out a way where I could still train and focus on the craft, but still not compromise family time. And so that’s when I looked into helicopters and being able to get down and back in 15 minutes. And that’s when it started. So, my routine was always the same. Weights early in the morning, kids to school, fly down, practice like crazy, do my extra work, media, everything I needed to do, fly back, get back in the carpool line, pick the kids up. And my wife was like, “Listen, I can pick them up.” I’m like, “No, no, no. I want to do that.” Because you have road trips and times where you’re not – you don’t see your kids, you know? So, every chance I get to see them and spend time with them, even if it’s 20 minutes in the car, I want that.
The irony and tragedy of Bryant and his daughter dying in a helicopter crash is just gut-wrenching.
A few months ago, the Grizzlies thought so little of Josh Jackson, they didn’t even bring him to training camp. He remained on an NBA contract. Memphis gained no roster or salary-cap flexibility. The Grizzlies planned to send him to their minor-league affiliate, but the Hustle hadn’t yet opened their training camp. There was nowhere else for Jackson to be. The Grizzlies just didn’t want him around.
Now, Jackson will get his chance on the parent club.
The Memphis Grizzlies have recalled Josh Jackson from the NBA G League’s Memphis Hustle.
Jackson has appeared in 26 games for the Hustle this season and has averaged 20.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.5 blocks.
Magic Johnson – one of the NBA’s brightest stars – stood behind a podium, smiled and shook the world. Johnson had HIV and was retiring from the Lakers, he announced. Confusion, speculation and, most prominently, grief followed. Everyone thought he’d die. Charles Barkley said, “It’s kind of like somewhat of a death of a brother.” Larry Bird called it “probably the toughest day I’ve had since my father passed away, and I’ve been very depressed and sort of been out of it.” Pat Riley called for a moment of silence before a game.
More than 28 years later, Johnson mourned Kobe Bryant.
Bryant’s death yesterday was the tragedy everyone believed Johnson’s diagnosis to be. Sudden. Crushing. Unbelievable. All the same emotions came pouring out. Except this time there was no mistaking the finality.
Johnson has continued living, thriving, inspiring. He’s a renowned businessman, beloved celebrity and fantastic ambassador for basketball. It’s the type of retirement expected for Bryant, because why wouldn’t it be?
The NBA has grown accustomed to its titans aging gracefully. Unlike baseball, the NBA hasn’t existed long enough for multiple generations of old-timers to pass away. Unlike football, the NBA doesn’t subject its players to such traumatic physical tolls.
Just two MVPs in all of NBA history had died, Wilt Chamberlain (age 63 in 1999) and Moses Malone (age 60 in 2015), and those deaths felt far too soon.
Bryant was only 41.
Just four All-Stars died younger. Don Sunderlage was in a car crash at age 31 in 1961. Maurice Stokes suffered a head injury during a game, became paralyzed then – after teammate Jack Twyman cared for him for 12 years – died at age 36 in 1970. Pete Maravich had a heart issue while playing pickup basketball at age 40 in 1988. Reggie Lewis suffered a heart attack during what should have been the midst of his career at age 27 in 1993.
Lewis – like Len Bias (who died of a cocaine overdose at age 22 in 1986) and Drazen Petrovic (who died in a car crash at age 28 in 1993) – never got to fulfill their potentials. That creates its own kind of anguish.
There is no analogue to Bryant’s death.
Bryant’s accomplishments – one MVP, five championships, two NBA Finals MVPs, 11 All-NBA first teams, two All-NBA second teams, two All-NBA third teams and 18 All-Star appearances – place him among the very greatest of all-time greats. No player anywhere near that stature had ever died anywhere near this young.
Bryant could be charming and ruthless, sometimes simultaneously. His play and conduct earned him loyal fans and harsh critics. The never-ending Kobe debates seemed only to inflame the passion of his supporters.
Few adored him like fellow NBA players. They admired his skill and determination. He responded by mentoring many. It’s difficult to overstate just how cherished Bryant was in this league.
Few understand the cold realities of the NBA like Austin Rivers. He grew up with his father, Doc Rivers, frequently gone playing and coaching. As a result, they aren’t particularly close. Now an NBA player himself, Austin speaks of their distant relationship with far more acceptance than wistfulness. He’s too focused on competing to do much else.
Yesterday, Austin cried on the court:
Then, explained how little he cared about the Rockets losing a basketball game:
Others shed tears in arenas around the country. The NBA could have cancelled yesterday’s games. Playing while grieving proved difficult for many.
There was just no good way to handle the loss. Mere moments of silence felt insufficient.
The Spurs and Raptors began their game yesterday with shot-clock violations in honor of his No. 24. Other teams exchanged a shot-clock violation and eight-second violation in honor of his other number. Trae Youngwore No. 8.
My new motto with everything is, What Would Kobe do? He’d want us to focus more on the loss of his daughter. He’d want us to get past differences with our brothers and move on. He’d never want the game to be cancelled or be stopped. He’d want us to keep going! #RIPKOBE🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾