Greg Oden knows what the bench feels like and the No. 1 pick from the 2007 NBA draft had other plans in mind when he left Ohio State after his freshman season.
Oden has seen the first three seasons of his NBA career drift by as he sits on the bench with injuries. In the September before his rookie season, he went down with a season-ending right knee injury. He had microfracture surgery to repair the knee and returned for the 2008-09 season.
Just 13 minutes into his second effort at being a rookie, Oden went out of the game with a foot injury. Two weeks later he returned and put up some good performances before going down for three more weeks with a chipped left knee cap.
He wasn't much of a factor for the rest of the season, seeing reserve minutes. Oden started 21 straight games to kick off the 2009-10 season and it looked as if the curse was over. He tallied game highs in points with 24 and rebounds with 20 in separate contests.
Unfortunately, Oden hit the floor—once again, knee in hand—on Dec. 5. He fractured his left patella trying to leap up and contest a shot by the Houston Rockets' Aaron Brooks.
This season, Oden decided to have microfracture surgery on his left knee, meaning he's had the procedure done on both legs. He will not see time on the floor for the rest of the season.
Oden is a restricted free agent at the end of this season.
Where can poor Oden get his act together and make an effort to live up to the hype?
Here's a list of the top eight spots that can suit big Greg.
Don't hate this just yet. Something needs to happen first before this is even a remotely good idea.
Oden won't look at Orlando unless Dwight Howard is shipped out away from the Orlando Magic. Howard's contract expires after next season and the Magic have to be shaking at the premise that he might just up and leave. They'd be foolish not to look into options for Howard that will get them something in return.
If Howard hits the road, the city of Orlando will be looking for a new big man to be the face of the franchise. Why not go from the baby-faced Howard to the grandpa-faced Oden?
Oden has the build to be a tumultuous task for a defender in the post. He may not have the shoulders that Howard possesses, but he's not a small guy by any stretch of the imagination.
Howard has been coached along by many former big stars in the NBA. Patrick Ewing helped Howard improve his abilities, and he'd probably be willing to do the same for Oden.
This is another circumstantial situation for Oden.
Marc Gasol is a restricted free agent at the end of this season. The Grizzlies have moved one Gasol and I'm sure they're not afraid to do it again. Gasol, although not at the level of his brother, is a polished big man in the NBA.
If Oden were to join the Grizzlies, he would be greeted with a group of young guns. Rudy Gay, Mike Conley Jr. and O.J. Mayo have only combined for nine years of NBA experience. However, the Grizzlies are currently the No. 8 seed in the West, showing how much potential they have.
The real reward would be reuniting with Conley Jr., who Oden teamed up with for one season at Ohio State. Although the two weren't able to win a National Championship as freshman, they made it to the title game and performed admirably against the tough Florida Gators.
I'm sure Oden and Conley Jr. wouldn't mind another chance to be a one-two punch. This time, they'd have a much more talented supporting cast, but tougher competition.
The Golden State Warriors can't defend anybody. That's where Oden steps in.
During his brief stint in the 2009-10 season, Oden averaged 2.3 blocks per game. His size alone makes him a threat to block shots, but Oden has the gifts to be an elite shot-blocker in the league.
In the National Championship loss to Florida, Oden had four blocks even though Joakim Noah—now a member of the Chicago Bulls—was on the opposition.
Oden has the desire to defend.
Defense does start with the guards though, and the Golden State guards have yet to show they can stay in front of anyone. If they have someone more reliable than Andris Biedrins patrolling the post, maybe they'll amp up the pressure.
Oden could be a good fit in Golden State and help the Warriors shut down some opponents. With defense comes success in April and May.
Gerald Wallace ventured from Charlotte to Portland in a deadline deal this season.
What if Oden did the exact opposite this offseason?
Currently, the Bobcats are stuck with Kwame Brown in the middle. Brown is also a former No. 1 pick, but he doesn't have injuries to blame. Brown isn't as good as he was hyped up to be, and he'll always have to hear it. Brown is an average center in the league, but so much more was expected of him.
Instead of watching Brown be average, the Bobcats could take a chance on Oden and see if the hype around him was for real. They weren't the ones to buy into the Brown hype, so they don't have a bad taste in their mouth.
Oden would play alongside Stephen Jackson, D.J. Augustin, Boris Diaw and Gerald Henderson in the starting lineup. Although the Bobcats don't boast the best starters in the league, they have some talent on the bench.
They took a chance on Shaun Livingston after he dislocated his patella in one of the most graphic injuries in NBA history.
If Tyrus Thomas could improve on the offensive end and become the starting power forward, he and Oden could be quite the shot-blocking duo.
You didn't read it wrong. All the Portland Trailblazers have done in Oden's absence is get better and better and learn to win without him.
That doesn't mean, however, they can't win with him.
With Oden at the beginning of 2009-10, the Blazers started 13-8, but had a stretch where they went 10-2. Oden was starting to get comfortable with the offense and shooting the ball more frequently than he did to start the season.
During his laundry list of injuries, LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews have learned how to lead a team. The added responsibility has the made the two better players.
Then there's still Brandon Roy. He has had his fair share of injuries also, as Portland seems to be a cursed team. The team brought in Marcus Camby as a temporary solution to Oden's injury. Camby can still rebound incredibly, but is in the waning years of his career.
The Trailblazers seem poised to keep Oden and make sure they give him a fair shot to succeed. If not, there's still three teams that could give Oden greater exposure and the potential for stardom.
Shaquille O'Neal is just about done at age 39. Kevin Garnett has some left in the tank, but it's not much. Ray Allen has extended his career, but there are limits. Paul Pierce has been a veteran as long as I can remember.
The only member of the Boston Celtics that screams youth is Rajon Rondo. He bounces around the court, distributing the ball to a group of aging vets that still know how to score.
Basically, the Celtics need to start preparing for the team's next generation. They made a step by acquiring Jeff Green to likely replace Pierce in the coming years. Oden could very well be the next centerpiece for the Celtics franchise.
If Oden is as good as he was advertised back in 2007, the Celtics could find their answer to the Dwight Howard riddle. This may be hard to pull off in terms of money, but if the Celtics don't pull it off this season, they might as well cut their losses.
The Celtics are built to win right now. Winning next season is a possibility, but the Miami Heat are getting better as the boys of Boston get older.
Why not take a step toward the future and pick up Oden?
The Philadelphia 76ers are a formidable center away from being a serious contender right now.
The Sixers have been on a tear of late. They are 20-11 in their last 31 games and have looked to have some of the best chemistry around the league. Andre Iguodala has taken over point guard duties and done well in the new role.
Elton Brand is the leader of the balanced attack, which features six players averaging double-digit points. That's not even including rookie and No. 2 pick Evan Turner.
The main problem for the Sixers is their presence in the middle. Spencer Hawes is not a player that's going to challenge Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum even on a good day. Since the Sixers parted ways with Samuel Dalembert, they have yet to find a solid man underneath.
If the Sixers add Oden, he can be relied on to play hard-nosed defense and grab rebounds. These are both things that Hawes doesn't do particularly well.
Oden can lead this team to the Eastern Conference elite. They're already one of the best second-tier teams in the East.
New York is the biggest stage of them all when it comes to professional sports. Madison Square Garden is one of the most respected venues in all of the world.
Oden would have the best chance to become noticed if he joined the New York Knicks. Yes, they already have two superpowers in Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, but there's always attention to be had in New York. Even Camby was a big-name player when he was a Knick.
What if the Knicks add Chris Paul?
If it's monetarily possible for Oden to still come, he should still make the trip to the Big Apple. The four players would be under blankets of press if they fail. But if they succeed, there will be enough fame to leak down the line all the way to Oden.
Even if Paul doesn't join the Knicks, Oden could still help their chances to compete in the East. As of now, the Knicks don't have a pure center on their roster. Ronny Turiaf and Shelden Williams are both too short and Shawne Williams is too skinny.
Would New York receive Oden well? I don't know.
Should they? Yes.
What do you think? Where do you think Oden will end up? Will he be able to live up to the hype?