28 October 2009
With 14.6 seconds left in the game, Greg Oden walked towards the Blazers’ bench with his finger in the air and a grin on his face.
“I got one,” Oden told the coaching staff and his teammates.
It almost didn’t happen.
A good two hours prior at the Rose Garden, the Rockets did everything they could to limit the 7 foot, 270 pound Oden offensively and keep him from overpowering the 6’6 undersized pseudo center Chuck Hayes, with a little help from Houston teammates Luis Scola and David Anderson on opening night of the regular season. It worked.
But on the defensive end, Oden flexed.
By nights end, his final stat line resembled The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: 1-3 from the field, 2 points, 12 total rebounds (4 offense/8 defense), 1 assist, 5 personal fouls, 1 steal, 7 turnovers and 5 blocked shots in roughly 26 minutes of play.
For Houston, here’s what went into guarding Greg Oden.
Rick Adelman stood huddled with a handful of writers outside the Rockets locker room. As he bantered about beginning the season without the services of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, the attention soon turned to attempting to contain Oden.
“I have a lot of faith in Chuck Hayes even though he’s only 6’6,”Adelman began.
“But that puts us at a real disadvantage, when Chuck gets down around the basket and he (Oden) ducks in real quick on him or gets in deep on the rebounds. My problem is I’d rather have Chuck on (LaMarcus) Aldridge. That’s the real problem we have. We’re going to have to just figure it out. There are no answers here. Yao’s not coming back.
“He (Oden) looks more confident. He looks like he’s asserted himself more than last year. When we played them in the playoffs he had a couple of games when he looked liked that. He looks like he’s in good shape. A guy like that misses a whole year and comes back, it’s hard. It’s hard for big guys. He’s a big son of a gun. I’ve liked what I’ve seen. Rebounding – that’s what they need from him.”
As the first quarter began, Oden faced Hayes while also seeing switches with Scola on the defensive end. Hayes kept Greg from getting early touches on offense with Oden’s first attempt - a missed jump hook on the left baseline – coming three minutes into the game. About a minute later, Oden committed his first foul of the night. The trend continued throughout the game. Active early on the defensive end against Scola and Hayes, Greg grabbed three rebounds in the first quarter. He also turned the ball over three times in about nine minutes played.
Oden saw one double-team from Hayes and Aaron Brooks.
“I tried to make it tough on him and didn’t let him get position down in the paint. I tried to keep him off the offensive rebounds for easy put backs, but he still did a great job on the defensive end altering shots,” Hayes said afterwards.
Oden watched Joel Przybilla go about his business to start the second quarter. When he returned four minutes in, Greg was met by Scola defensively. Luis proceeded to hit a jumper over welcoming Oden back. Greg returned the favor with a block which led to a Steve Blake three-pointer on the other end.
It reminded Scola of the Oden during the first round playoff series between Portland and Houston last season.
“He was good then and he’s good right now,” the Rockets 6’9 forward from Argentina admitted.
In that second quarter, Oden played 7:18 minutes, grabbed two defensive rebounds, turned the ball over once and blocked two shots. Still the Rockets were miffed Portland didn’t go to Oden more often offensively. He didn’t take a single shot in the quarter.
“I don’t know if they looked for him a lot. They tried, but it’s difficult to play against Chuck,” Scola continued. “He (Oden) needs to work on a few things. I think if he stayed out of foul trouble he could do more and demanding more of the ball, he could be a good post-up player and expect more from him on the offensive end.”
Throughout the game, it appeared Oden rushed his shot. Did it look that way to the Rockets?
“Maybe. Maybe. There were times where he probably thought he did,” Hayes explained. “I don’t know if he was frustrated or not, because when he did get the ball I felt he was always out of position to score. It looks like he’s in shape. I’ll give him that.”
Oden was busy on the boards during the third quarter. He only played 4:55 minutes, but tallied 10 total rebounds at that stage of the game. Przybilla played the majority of the quarter, with Rockets rookie center David Anderson drawing Oden late in the third and at times in the fourth.
“I thought he was bigger than what I expected – longer,” said the wide-eyed Australian after the game.
In all, the fourth quarter was rather unkind to the Blazers young center. The job Hayes, Scola and even Anderson did defensively on Oden was solid. Yet in the end, Greg’s turnovers were as constant as the personal fouls he racked up (3 fouls and 2 turnovers in 5 minutes played during the fourth quarter alone).
He finally scored though tipping in a LaMarcus Aldridge miss with 59.7 seconds left in the game. Seconds later Greg left the game smiling on his way to the bench.
"Everybody has to do their part out there and we need guys to make those hustle plays. I think I did that tonight," Oden later explained.
On the night, Portland turned the ball over 26 times in the 96-98 regular season win. Seven of those belonged to Oden, as did double-digit rebounds (12) during the block party (5).
“He’s a work in progress. He’s just getting a feel back on the floor. He’ll figure it out. He’ll find out that he has to make moves when it happens,” a tired Rick Adelman said about Oden’s outing.
“I thought he rushed it a little bit tonight not sure what he’s going to do. We were coming at him. Just because he’s so much bigger, we weren’t going to just let him isolate on our smaller people. I thought they were letting him do his job at the other end. That’s a call, you just never know. When you have (Brandon) Roy out there, I’d probably give it to Roy too.”
Still, if Houston takes anything away from the loss to Portland it was the job they did guarding Greg Oden, at least on the offensive end. As for Portland, they hope to see more flexing and less turnovers and fouls.
The Rockets get another chance here in a couple of days with the Blazers playing in Houston on Halloween night.
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