A few weeks back the "Oregonian" came out with their mid-season grades for the Trailblazers. In it they labeled much-maligned franchise cornerstone Greg Oden as the biggest disappointment of the campaign so far. It seemed a little rough at the time for all the reasons you’ve heard a billion times…he was still playing himself into shape, still testing out his knee, still learning the game, etc. The O has made a habit of being hard on Oden and actually I think it’s a good thing. Big stars don’t land in Portland very often. It would be easier to coddle him, instead the paper of record has let him know (repeatedly) that we have certain expectations.
And the thing is, they were right about Oden being disappointing. Take a look at his stats over the first half of this month. Through the 17th he was averaging just seven points and barely five rebounds a game while struggling just to stay in the game with foul trouble. As we watched, the ladyfriend liked to describe him as disinterested. "When is he finally just gonna get angry and start destroying people?"
Apparently the exact date of that Mt. Oden’s eruption was January 19th. Since then Oden has looked nothing like the spindly Bambi of old. Starting with a 24 and 15 against Milwaukee, the big man has been blowing people up. In the Blazers’ last five games he’s averaging 16.4 points and 11.4 boards. Not surprisingly he’s also managing to average 31 minutes a night…a number he hit just once in the previous eight games.
The reality of Oden’s recent flexing is that none of the teams Portland has faced have much in the way of a dominant center. Dan Gadzuric and Andray Blatche aren’t exactly Shaq and Tim Duncan. But I suppose it’s sort of like potty training…there are gonna be a few accidents here and there before you really get the whole tinkle and flush thing down.
Right now, Greg Oden has got his big boy pants on. And they are on fire.