Friday, March 23, 2007

An Ode to Oden

You might think it is strange that I start off with a post about a player still in college, but bear with me. Having seen Greg Oden in person -- if he's a day younger than 30, I'd be amazed -- I can now unequivocally say that he is without a single doubt the player that the Memphis Grizzlies should select, if they are fortunate enough to get the #1 pick in the draft. Let me tell you why.

Oden is an otherworldly force of nature in the paint. He only played 18 minutes against Tennessee and still managed to wreak havoc on their post players every single second he was in the game. His two huge weakside blocks happened because of his recognition of what was happening on the floor and then he took the perfect angle to erase the shot from existence. On one, his teammate got a blocking foul called on him -- and a deep bruise courtesy of Oden landing on him, no doubt -- but the other block finalized a stirring comeback that resulted in a Buckeyes victory. That is the game-changing element that the Grizzlies have been lacking since they moved to Memphis.

I read a quote from the Sports Guy today where he referenced that end-of-game block, where it seemed that Oden kept rising up until it seemed that he was 12 feet off the floor. He also mentioned that many people have whispered about the fact that Oden hasn't been going 110% "all out" every game due to worries about his recently injured, still healing wrist. On both of those blocks, you saw the "real Greg Oden", not the guy who has been content to play each game with little to no concern about his touches or minutes, deferring to teammates at all times. In those two instances, you saw a guy who nearly killed two of his own teammates when he landed, making sure that the opponents' shots didn't have a chance at ever seeing nylon.

I know many of you are absolutely enthralled with the freakish dynamic that Kevin Durant brings to the table, and believe me, I think that he is something special, too. He truly is a hybrid of Tracy McGrady, Kevin Garnett, Julius Erving and many other NBA greats. He makes everything look so effortless that you're not even sure that he's trying hard. But when I look at NBA championship teams, I don't see the names of guys like that leading their teams. I see names like Russell, Chamberlain, Mikan, Parrish, Abdul-Jabbar, O'Neal, Duncan, Olaujuwon, Walton, Malone. The swingmen I see in leadership roles are hard-nosed competition junkies who would sooner slap their mothers than concede a single point in a playoff game. Guys like Jordan, Bryant, Pippen, Wade, Bird, Thomas. There are guys who were important to their team who made things look easy -- James Worthy, Clyde Drexler, Robert Horry, to name a few -- but they weren't the "leaders" of their teams that won titles. In fact, the only guy who did manage to make everything look easy while winning everything in sight was Dr. J, who was notorious for his mean streak on the court. His battles with Larry Bird in the early 80's were legendary for their intensity.

So, in saying all that, count me in with those who continue to believe that championship teams are built from the middle outwards. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen (future Hall of Famers and NBA Top 50 members) are the only ones to reach the pinnacle of the sport without the presence of a great center. And it took both of them to achieve that, which is what other players are starting to figure out -- like Kobe in L.A. for instance. Great big men make the game easier for everyone else on the team. They block shots and intimidate guards in shooting pull-up jumpers. They rebound, allowing for more fastbreak opportunities, which translates to easy points. They make an entire team's defense better just with their presence. Does anyone truly believe that Jason Williams suddenly became a markedly better defender upon his arrival in Miami? Or does having Shaq and Zo behind him make guards a little wary of going into the paint once they get around him?

Will I be unhappy if we have to "settle" for Kevin Durant? Not at all. Because that means that things were out of our control due to the "luck of the draft". But if we get the top pick, I don't see that there is any way we can pass up the prospect that is the answer to 85% of our problems with this team -- especially since fans have clamored for a "big man" since the moment the moving trucks arrived in Memphis. Or did everyone forget that?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


With more time on their hands than any normal person should ever experience, a few posters from the Memphis Grizzlies Messageboards decided to share their knowledge and opinions with the masses -- although I suspect there will be more of the latter than the former. So, I welcome chipc3 and Zack, as they will join me in bringing fans a wide variety of news, analysis, opinion, satire and a general enjoyment of the Grizzlies, the NBA....and a few other things.

Be sure and let us know if there are any subjects that you would like for us to cover, too.