Greg Oden lumbered onto the stage at Madison Square Garden, one massive foot after another. He extended his hand towards a beaming David Stern, and posed for a picture. It was June 28, 2007, and Oden, the most anticipated big-man prospect in recent memory, had just been selected first overall in the 2007 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers.
Oden’s career trajectory hasn’t followed its projected route, however. A nauseating slew of knee injuries, and subsequent surgeries, have derailed Oden’s professional career so far.
Before he even played a game, he had micro-fracture surgery on his right knee, sidelining him for the entire 2007-2008 season. It was an omen of things to come. Finally, on March 15, 2012, after three knee surgeries, the Trail Blazers waived Oden.
Oden took the 2012-13 season off to rehab, but is now a free agent. Several teams are interested — but the New York Knicks aren’t.
It’s no secret the Knicks need front court help. Sure, the addition of Metta World Peace helps, but it likely won’t be enough to fend off the brutish Indiana Pacers. In Oden, the Knicks would be getting 7-feet and 285 pounds of muscle.
But why should the Knicks, who just acquired another draft bust, Andrea Bargnani, go after a player the lowly Blazers deemed unworthy of a roster spot?
Given his professional track record, Oden will not command more than the veteran’s minimum salary. If he plays subpar basketball, or is too injured to even suit up, it won’t cost the Knicks much.
But if the Buffalo, New York native plays anything resembling the dominant post-presence he was in college, the Knicks will have a solid back-up center. He was voted the 2007 Big-Ten Conference Player of the Year, and he led the Ohio State Buckeyes to the national championship game.
Don’t expect Oden to average the 15.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.3. blocks he did in school. But he brings a potentially dominant low-post presence at a low cost. For the cash-strapped Knicks, Oden would be a stellar option.
The Knicks’ projected backup center is either Amare Stoudemire or Andrea Bargnani, or some combination of both. Neither player is known for their toughness around the rim.
Five years ago, Greg Oden slipped on a white Portland Trail Blazers emblazoned cap and entered the NBA in Madison Square Garden. Now, as tries to restart his career, Oden should consider going back to Times Square. And the Knicks should welcome him.