greg-oden-by-bench

All the biggest dominoes have fallen in free agency this offseason. When the biggest questions left on the open market are when Nikola Pekovic is gonna give up on waiting for an imaginary team to blow away the Wolves’ $50 million offer, whether or not Brandon Jennings will sign his qualifying offer and try again next season, and what team Mo Williams will sign a minimum contract to come off the bench for, you know you’re officially in the dog days of the NBA summer, with a lot of hours to fill with non-hoops-related intrigue and entertainment. There’s only one real story left, and it’s likely to be resolved by the end of the week: Who’s gonna get to the chance to resurrect Greg Oden?

I doubt there’s ever been a free agent quite like Greg Oden before. Here you have the chance to sign a former No. 1 overall pick that never really busted as a pro — he has a career PER near 20 and according to Basketball-Reference was worth 6.8 wins in his first 82 games, about how many second-year sensation Jimmy Butler was worth in a full season last year. Unfortunately for Oden, those 82 games came over the course of two seasons in six years, and represent the sum total of the basketball he’s played thus far, with knee injuries upon knee injuries cheating him out of getting to establish himself as a pro. Now he represents a free agency lottery ticket to make even Andrew Bynum seem like a safe bet, a guy who at age 25 still has that franchise center potential sheen to him, if you can overlook the fact that he hasn’t laced up his sneaks in four years and may never be fully healthy again.

Unsurprisingly, a number of teams are interested — particularly since with his miserable track record of health, Oden probably can be landed for a minimal financial investment. At last count, it sounded like Oden was debating between a half-dozen teams in pursuit: the Pelicans, Kings, Mavericks, Hawks, Spurs and Heat, all of whom have seen Oden work out (“looks quite lean & is moving quite well,” reports Marc Stein!) and all of whom should be making their offers sometime this week, in a kind of low-rent version of the Dwight Howard sweepstakes.

I fear, however, that I already know where Oden is headed, and this Marc J. Spears tweet doesn’t help: To me, it seems all but certain that Oden is going to Miami.

The pitch that Miami can make to Oden is obvious and undeniable. They’re the two-time defending champs. They have LeBron. They have Pat Riley. They have South Beach. They have a borderline-desperate need for size and rebounding. They have enough media pressure at all times that Oden’s rehabbing can go under the radar as never being more than the third-biggest story surrounding the team at any given point in time. And after last year, they have a proven track record of veterans taking lesser or even minimum contracts to play there, and certainly looking like they have no regrets about doing so. The Heat are the gravitational center of the NBA now, and resisting their pull will take some serious effort from the former No. 1 pick.

As if all that wasn’t enough, the Heat also now have Chris Andersen. Like Oden, The Birdman was out of the league for some time — albeit for dramatically different reasons — but filled a potential need in the middle for the Heat during their stretch run last season. Once signed and slotted in, he instantly performed at a high level for the rest of the season, and a near All-Star level during the playoffs, where he led all players in offensive rating, true shooting percentage and Win Shares per 48 Minutes, hitting 18 straight shots over one stretch of games. If Oden is looking to be put in a position to succeed instantly after his long NBA sabbatical, he’ll find none more opportune than Miami, and Andersen is pretty good evidence of that.

It’s a pretty strong pitch. But as a Heat hater, I feel a certain duty to go on record pleading with Oden not to listen to it. Following a postseason where they emerged victorious but still barely scraped by in their last two series, Miami has shown legitimate vulnerability this offseason, amnestying a key postseason performer in Mike Miller and making no moves in free agency besides retaining Andersen and fellow veteran Ray Allen. With their core already aging and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh both underperforming rather dramatically in the playoffs, it seems plausible that the Heat might simply not be quite as good next year, and with the paper-thin margin of error they showed in the postseason, the slightest of regressions could be enough to prevent a threepeat.

Would signing Oden be enough to offset that regression? Not necessarily. He could sign tomorrow, get hurt again on Thursday and never play a single game for Miami, and nobody would be all that surprised. But he has the potential to offset it, and then some. If he can be 70 percent or more of the player he was for 82 games with the Blazers, that could be enough not only to keep the Heat in the drivers’ seat for championship No. 3, as Tim Hardaway predicts — and honestly, they’ll probably end up there regardless — but to give them hope for the future, and perhaps inspire the core to stay together beyond their opt-outs next season and even beyond. Not to mention the precedent it would set for future free agents in Oden’s position in years to come, assuming such free agents exist in the years to come.

Even more than potentially keeping my most-hated team vital for next year and beyond, there’s another reason I’m praying Greg Oden doesn’t sign with the Heat: I like Greg Oden. He always seemed like a chill guy. I liked his ESPN the Magazine commercials. His reaction to being told he was going to miss his rookie season was heartbreaking, as was that Mark Titus profile on him on Grantland last year where he talks about how he “pretty much became an alcoholic.” It sucks for him that Kevin Durant might go on to be the best player of his generation (or second-best, depending on where you draw generational lines) while he has to forever play the Sam Bowie, Pt. II role in Portland lore. I would wish him nothing but success on 29 out of the 30 NBA teams, and spend a good deal of time, energy and DV-R space rooting for him to find his way back to NBA relevance.

But on Miami, I just couldn’t. I’d have to root against him. Not so much that he’d re-injure himself — not even I could be that much of a hater — but that he’d be only minorly effective, that he’d maybe be a third of the player athletically that he was in Portland or Ohio State, that he might not even constitute enough of an upgrade over Udonis Haslem or Chris Andersen to avoid some kind of controversy over who gets to be the starter in Miami. And in the meantime, the fact that the Heat forced me to root against the feel-good story of the season would raise my hate for the team to a whole new level, which was already reaching some seriously unhealthy levels during last year’s Finals. If they won a third straight championship with Oden as the starting center … I’d rather the Cavs won with a suddenly totally healthy Andrew Bynum taking home MVP honors. That would be infinitely more stomachable. And I’m a Sixers fan.

Of course, this is all from my perspective, and doesn’t present any case for Oden as to why it makes sense for him to eschew being a Heatle next season. All I can really hope for is that a combination of desire to play on a more under-the-radar team (as his agent has even alluded to as possibly being a draw for Greg) and good old-fashioned greed (fine, “need for financial security”) will keep Oden from signing with the forever-spotlit and totally-capped-out Heat. But I’m not terribly optimistic — the fact that the Heat have done close to nothing else this offseason leads me to believe that landing Oden was their endgame all along, and the Heat don’t seem like a team that miscalculates on such things.

But I beg of you, Greg: Don’t do it. Don’t make me and the rest of Heat-hating America hate you. Go to New Orleans. Go to Sacramento. Go to Atlanta. Go somewhere where I can watch you getting healthy and wealthy and not want to die in the process. It’ll be good karma for you long-term, I promise.

Comments (29)

  1. Please stop running Unterberger columns, TBJ.

    These columns (this is a great example, but see basically any of this “Lebron Hater Index” columns), as far as I’m concerned, are basically on-par with the stuff you read on ESPN and YSports message boards — although far less concise and the the point. I am a huge TBJ fan, and like the way that the guys will discuss these teams in bizarre yet ultimately pretty fair ways. But with AU it always seems like it’s more important we know how much he hates Lebron/the Heat than to really give me information that makes me a better/more informed/more entertained Bball fan. I’m sure there are ppl out there who still agree with AU’s biases out there, but I also think that his unabashed painting of the Heat as a team that every wants dethroned makes his commentary seem juvenile, lazy, and trivial. Why does he write for this website? Is it just to troll readers into arguing about Lebron, again (which I realize I am doing right now — mission successful AU!!!)? If the “good” NBA fan that AU wants to model here roots for FING ANDREW BYNUM over anyone, let alone someone who is as exciting/talented/not a complete dick like Lebron is ridiculous.

    I know you say “this is all your perspective.” I just don’t see why you don’t share this perspective on a message board with the rest of the trolls, instead of posting on what is usually a top-knotch site.

    Please bring the podcasts back. I want Pun Gun, Woah Boy, TOTW, hell even a game of Hedbanz. But no more of this AU clown.

    • I don’t think that you are going to find many sympathetic readers to your Heat hating rants. Miami is the best place for Oden because they know how to build players. Ah la Wade, Chalmers, Haslem, Dorell Wright, Rasul Butler, Caron Butler, Norris Cole. If he went to your favorite team he would waste away into the obscure sob story that you’ll hope he becomes as he plays for the Heat. In Miami they turn underdogs and average players into solid pieces of a championship team. Miami is on top because they are a first class organization that knows how to utilize a players strengths and not have that player take on assignments that they can’t handle. Try focusing on basketball instead of hate for a while.

  2. Trey Kirbys mama got one big titty and one little tittle they call the B***C biggie smalls

  3. I agree with Baron, AU adds nothing more to basketball media than the clowns at ESPN do. As a basketball fan, I find it very difficult to read countless articles by AU where all he really discusses is his dislike for the Heat. His articles add no value to any sort of basketball discussion, and significantly bring down the quality of an otherwise phenomenal site.

  4. Spurs please! Twin Towers all over again.

  5. i like you, Unterberger.

  6. I agree with Baron. This is long-winded message board crap.

  7. i feel the same, dont go there!

  8. I actually have to agree with Baron here too. I never was on board with the whole “now we hate Lebron” thing. I can understand the disdain for the greatest player in the world, but it gets boring after some time. I’m more interested in what Oden can contribute to one of his many suitors and what potential he still holds. It would have also been good if you listed some legitimate reasons why Oden shouldn’t join the Heat. The article just read as “The Miami Heat are clearly the best team for Oden. Despite the Heat being the best option, I hope he doesn’t go there because I ‘like him’ (but don’t want what’s best for him).”

    The irony of liking a player but not wanting what’s best for him is humorous I suppose.

  9. I really like AU’s other works but the ones about the hate on the Heat/LeBron have to go.

  10. I dont always like AU, but this post was solid. Stuff it, haters

  11. I don’t see what is wrong with analysis of the Oden situation with a personal edge to it. He talked over the benefits of joining the Heat as well as his possible ceiling and floor there. Just because he honestly states the prism through which he looks at the NBA (which is similar to a lot of people) doesn’t mean there’s no good analysis going on. AU is good, the top 100 moments of the season was a well put together reminder.

  12. AU writes so bad, its not even satirical anymore.

    This TBJ Site has so much quality, these AU columns not so much…

    Please Andrew, find a new job

  13. Andrew, I’ll always have a bit of a soft spot in my heart for your stellar work at Stylus way back in the day (s/o to Playing God w/ the 90s Pop Culture Box Set.) But after three years of these juvenile, reductive attempts at justifying your extreme bias, someone’s got to shut it down. At this point, it’s just bland, dude.

    Nothing wrong with holding some irrational hatred in your heart (for instance, fuck Derrick Rose), but these articles, compared to some of your more inspired pieces are almost unreadable. Save them for your Xanga.

  14. Wow, seven paragraphs until he starts making his point. By then I’d lost interest. You could have summarized all that background in a couple sentences.

  15. it must get so exhausting being a hater

  16. I usually roll my eyes when it comes to the Lebron James Heat Index. I agree with Baron and the rest of the users on the TBJ board-in terms of the high quality content on the blog. You want basketball insight? It’s factual (for the most part) and referenced. You want humor? Trey Kurby has the uncanny art of actually being able to produce a lol from myself. Skeets and Tas have kept me engaged as a podcast listener for over 3 years. These are a few of the reasons why I share this blog with my friends and also via social media.

    But this crap? I thought ESPN had mastered the art of beating a dead horse- with the apex being reached during the Tim Tebow saga. However, this article strikes a nerve that forced me to actually make a comment about this polarizing piece of $#%@. I understand the satire and irony in which the article was written: I like Greg Oden, but I HATE THE HEAT SO MUCH. Therefore, I wish for Greg Oden to fail in a Heat uniform. This should be funny because of the whole I Hate Lebron thing, right? (not really, but I’m sure for the select few out there, this is the case)

    I get it. But here is the problem: It’s been largely documented that Greg Oden has suffered from depression and alcoholism as a result of the injuries that have almost robbed him of his career. It’s a bit different than wishing ill will towards a guy like Ray Allen for instance. This was an individual who never reached expectations in the largest scale possible- a feeling that many of us have faced at one point or another, but never to the degree of Greg Oden. I will assume that the feelings weren’t genuine in wishing Greg Oden to not reach his comeback in a Heat uniform. I’m not saying that you have to cheer for the guy, but Oden has obviously suffered enough. Is polarizing your fan base really worth a cheap laugh? Even for the troll Unterberger, this is a bit cold.

    I know that TBJ has better standards than this. In terms of comedy, you could do a lot better.

  17. I like Andrew’s posts. They are very different from the normal humorous posts of TBJ but I think they are intelligently written. I like that he chose to write subjectively. I understand how since they are different, people could dislike them but let’s layoff of Mr. Unterberger and thank him for the post rather than condemning him for offering his perspective.

  18. Entertaining article. I took it slightly tongue in cheek so I’m not gonna get my panties in a bunch like all of a sudden Heat “fans” that want the rest of the world to love everything about the Heat.
    Sorry, kids. Laker fan here. Liked Magic more than Jordan. Liked Kobe in his prime more than Cleveland Lebron and hope the Heat lose next year after the Spurs let em off the hook this season.
    Lotta commentors act like it’s easy to write about hoops during this slow-ass offseason. It’s not..

  19. I like unterburguer, (don’t know how to write is name, lazy to go see), I never agree with him, ok bluntely disagree with him, but he are writes really well, and for me, has a Lebron fan, because I do enjoy watching him play, I see his posts as a compliment to both Lebron and the Heat. And he is not biased! He is the first one to tell you guys Lebron is the best. He just doesn’t like it. And that’s ok. Good post Underburger, great read!

  20. Hey y’all, I’m just a humble internet folker and I HAVE SOME THOUGHTS.

    Go ahead and dislike the heat, that’s your opinion, and you’re more than welcome to it. But wishing for Oden to fail just because he plays for a team from Miami seems like a waste of energy. I come to TBJ because I love basketball, and Trey is rad, and though the way the heat came to be could be interpreted as ‘unethical’ (but seriously, it’s fucking sports, like… really?), but allowing yourself to take pleasure in the way the Heat play ball because of some perceived slight seems ridiculous. And I mean… I guess these are supposed to be satirical but… Isn’t satire supposed to be enjoyable? This is just boring and derivative. Like I get that you’re not much of an analytical writer, and it’s hard to pull subjective opinionated content out of your hat when there’s fuck all going on but… Just stop? Please? This is garbage.

  21. Why are people complaining, this is excellent wit.

    americans probably don’t understand a good written argument.

    :appreciates:

  22. I think Miami knows Oden won’t last more than 10 games, but Lebron just wants someone on the team who can make him look younger.

  23. With all the sounding off on Andrew, I just wanted to put in my two cents. Although his anti-LeBron/Heat articles aren’t up to the standards are the rest of his content. I actually like that he still does the Hate Index. For me, it’s great to have a voice for all the illogical Heat haters and to smirk at their anger.

    Keep up the good work Andrew and may the hate consume your soul.

  24. Normally I don`t care for fluff pieces like this but then I am reminded that it is the offseason and I`ll take what I can get.

    A also enjoy reading butthurt in the comments.

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