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The State of Greg Oden

Just saw some video of Greg Oden playing against Brook Lopez and Kevin Love in the USA Basketball Showcase.

Look at him out there! Seven feet tall. Strong as an ox, even though he's just barely legal drinking age. Making rebounds that would be difficult for anyone else look easy. If he were still at Ohio State, anyone would consider drafting him at the top of the lottery, even with his injury history.

And this particular performance has been noted as somewhat encouraging.

I loved a lot of what I saw, particularly his conditioning, and commitment to containing smaller quicker ballhandlers.

But for whatever reason, watching this video was the moment that I lost a chunk of hope. In short: He has clearly been working out, working on his game and getting healthy. And as I have written a zillion times, he's an elite NBA rebounder right now, which is more than reason enough to keep him him on the court.

Nevertheless, you watch this and wonder if he'll ever be Greg Oden, as in the franchise-changing player who is a key part of big runs that win important playoff games. The Oden we have right now has some real and troubling obstacles.

  • Even though he has been in the NBA mix for more than two years now, he still looks surprised by a lot of what happens on the court.

  • He falls down a lot. Enough that it matters in and of itself. (If every player fell as much as he does, "wipeouts" would be a column in the boxscore.) Even more importantly, that many miscalculations and collisions, it's hard on a body, and he's been the king of injuries. The final reason I bring how often he hits the deck: It's a measure of the degree to which he is not anywhere near "in the zone" out there. When players are just rolling, they say everything seems to go really slow for them. To Oden, things seem to be going really fast.

  • If you make ten perfect passes to him at game speed, he might make five decent catches.

He may well get there. He's a really nice seeming guy (to the extend I've met him) and I'm pulling for him. But if he does become a superstar, we should honor his hard work, and also remember to look around for some coaches and trainers to thank for their hard work -- because we've seen enough to know he's not a natural.