Ever since the news of Greg Oden's attempted return surfaced, I've been pushing for the Celtics to throw their hat in the ring. After all, it's not everyday that 25 year old 7 footers who have shown the ability to play at a near All-Star level hit the free agent market. While Oden's knees may be closer to 65 years old, he's now a full year removed from his most recent microfracture surgery (his third such procedure), and ready to mount a comeback. According to SportsOnEarth's Shaun Powell, Oden is planning on making his decision (important to note: he's not planning "The Decision", just his decision) in July - and yes, the Celtics are in the running.
Agent Mike Conley says Greg Oden will not decide on his next team until July. Cavs, Heat and Celtics in running.
— Shaun Powell (@Powell2daPeople) February 27, 2013
If you were a bit confused about why Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley is Oden's agent - don't be. It's actually Conley Sr, the point guard's dad, and he represents both his son and Oden.
One of the big reasons I think that signing Oden is a risk well worth taking, is that he has finally given his body the appropriate time to heal. While this is his 5th knee surgery, it's the first time he has not tried to rush back and beat his 'rehab timetable'. By the time training camp opens in September, Oden will be 19 months removed from the operating table, nearly a year longer than many microfracture patients. While that certainly does not guarantee he'll avoid a 6th surgery - it's reason to be positive.
Another big reason to target Oden? Centers rarely hit the free agent market. Especially 25 year olds with the potential to be viable starters in the league, and the pedigree of the being the #1 overall pick just six years prior. Oden has not appeared in an NBA game in over 3 years (December, 2009), but many people forget that he was really starting to hit his stride as a player when he suffered the broken kneecap that ended his '09-'10 season, averaging 11.1 points, 8.5 boards and 2.3 blocks per game in just 24 minutes. Obviously being three years (and several surgeries) removed from that production is reason to doubt whether he can return to that level, but he was also just 21 years old at the time - and seemingly capable of taking his game to a higher level than that.
At the end of the day, the biggest reason for targeting Oden is that he will not require a major financial commitment. Now, a team like Cleveland that is under the cap will always be able to offer up more money than the Celtics (or the Heat for that matter), but in Cleveland Oden will be dealing with direct competition in Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao, and Tyler Zeller. In Boston and Miami? Not so much. It's doubtful that any team that signs Oden will be able to insure the contract, making it unlikely that they will really open up their wallets for a guy with such a high probability for injury, and evening the playing field a bit for a team like the C's who will be over the cap.
While there is still a third of a season to be played (plus the playoffs), count me among those very intrigued about Oden's July decision. "I'm taking my talents to Castle Island Beach" has a nice ring to it.
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