Gone with the Wind: Witnessing Greg Oden's Atrophy

GrahamSenior Analyst ISeptember 9, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 28:  Greg Oden #52 of the Portland Trail Blazers looks on in the first half against the Los Angeles Lakers on October 28, 2008 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Also seen at Celtics 17

No, seriously.

If any branch has the slightest of movement, Greg Oden will probably fall down and injure himself.

Oden rose from his chair in the green room on NBA Draft night at Madison Square Garden with an auspicious future with the Portland Trailblazers. By the time the 2007-08 season was on top of us, Oden had already told ESPN The Magazine some of his aspirations—one of them being to win 15 championships.

The only problem for Oden was that he was going to miss the entire season after having microfracture surgery on his feeble right knee.

However, Oden was able to chip in next season, the vibrant Trailblazers team looking to be competitive in a Western Conference that left no room for error in 2008-09.

He posted numbers such as 8.9 points and seven rebounds in 61 games (continued to tussle with injuries on and off).

Generally for a rookie, a stat sheet headed by those two averages is impressive; but because NBADraft.net compared Oden to Bill Russell prior to the Draft, we thought otherwise.

Oden came into the league a winner. At Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis, he led the team charge to win three straight Indiana Class 4A basketball before graduating in 2006.

Amidst a pile of awards and trophies—the 2005 National Boys Basketball Player of the Year and the co-winner of Parade's High School Player of the Year to name some—Oden ballooned to become a massive figure representing a new batch of future NBA stars.

Along with Kevin Durant, he was a highly sought-after player, eventually being announced Ohio State's latest recruit, along with longtime friend and teammate Mike Conley, Jr.

That year, Oden played an old-fashioned yet intriguing style of game. Tough, hard defense, including blocked shots and rebounds, with some offense on the side. While Oden had the ability to score, his heart and soul is and always was on the defensive end, where he soon established himself as a force to be reckoned with.

He also led his Buckeye troop to a much anticipated national championship game against the NCAA brute Florida Gators, who boasted Corey Brewer, Joakim Noah, and Al Horford. Unfortunately for Oden, his first season and final game played in College Basketball  ended in a loss.

And then Greg Oden was heading to the Draft. After participating in college the minimum number of years (one), Oden took the final step on his dream excursion. With the room exuberant and bouncing with energy, Oden had finally gotten there.

He had been imperturbable for all his life at that point, and although his mindset was always in the direction of where a go-getter would head, now it was time to really prove himself.

But, as I said, he has done everything but that; go down grievously, watch his team catch fire while watching from the sidelines, been criticized for joining in a couple of pickup basketball games, despite sitting out due to injury. Even make the NBA Playoffs, one of the few high notes in his career.

Although that last part is deceiving. While the Blazers made the playoffs, Oden did nothing to share the burden with star teammates such as Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. He finished a heartbreaking series with the Rockets averaging just five points and a mediocre 4.3 rebounds.

Oden's time in the NBA has been—and I hate to say it because I've been quietly rooting for the kid since he's been drafted—meaningless. He's done practically nothing so far that would draw interest from the fans or other teams besides negative, off-the-court activities (example being in a pickup basketball game while in rehab).

Heck, Oden hasn't even stolen the nickname "The Big O" from Oscar Robertson like I imagined he'd do.

Now the question is, can he break out to become the player we thought he'd be, or will early prosperity culminate into mere dustballs of the past?

We haven't gotten a clear glimpse of his talent, as 61 games isn't even a full season of play. Not only that, but Oden hasn't had enough exhibitions of games where he is at his best—something we must get a look at before examining the caliber player he is.

Oden's height and athleticism are great advantages down low, another being his dexterity to sprint up and down the court without huffing and puffing. Oden also has tremendous feel for the basketball, which allows him to dominate solely off of dunks, tip-ins, and lay-ups.

In 2007, MyNBADraft.com also reported that Oden learned to deal with smart defenders, who would force Oden to his strong hand, by learning to finish with his opposite hand after injuring his wrist.

The scounting report also tells us that if Oden wishes to consummate what he hopes to achieve in this league, he must work on facing up on his defender and expanding his shooting range.

But Oden's real decrepitude is his lack of self-control. Oden's body is like an air-tight water bottle: It has a lot of firepower when used correctly, but sometimes can run wild without notice.

He can be compared to Ron Artest, who finally figured out how to keep his bundle of vitality under wraps—as well as push his desire to show how virile he was way down with his desire to win. But the Blazers caught a big break; unlike Ron-Ron, Oden doesn't have any steam coming out of his ears.

So what do you guys think? Will Oden's loose grip on the cliff of doom tighten and allow him to scale up again, or will he continue plummeting to the dwellings of Michael Olowokandi and Kwame Brown?

Oden's downfall was injuries. He's capable of being a truck down low, but has to adjust his mental toughness, ability to bridle certain urges on the court, and understanding of the game.

Will he step off the court a winner or a loser?