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Old 04-02-2007, 09:40 PM   #1
j Fresh
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Default Bill Simmons doesn't buy the Greg Oden hype....

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2...x?name=simmons

Quote:
Searching for the real Greg Oden
Apr. 2, 2007 |


You know what's strange about Greg Oden's freshman season, considering everyone regards him as a franchise center and all? I've watched OSU 15-16 times this season and there wasn't a single game that left me saying, "Wow ... that guy's gonna be unnnnnnnn-beeeeee-leeeeeeeeevable." There were glimpses of greatness here and there, as well as a few dominant 10-minute stretches (like during the second half of the Memphis game) ... but for someone repeatedly advertised as "The Next Russell" or "The Next Ewing," we really didn't see it for four straight months.



What did we see? Excuses. Lots of them.



You know, like these ...



He spent half the season playing with one hand. He's only 19. He's just a serene guy by nature. He's afraid to let loose because he doesn't want to hurt his wrist again. He's further along than Alonzo Mourning, Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O'Neal at the same age. It's not his fault that the refs keep calling him for chintzy fouls.



On and on and on. Look, I'm in the pro-Oden camp. He didn't receive enough credit for playing one-handed during the first half of the season. I do subscribe to Bill Walton's theory that Oden has been holding back because he doesn't want to get injured again (especially on plays around the basket where he's jumping in traffic), which explains why his two "holy s---!!!!!!!" plays of the tournament (the block at the end of the Tennessee game and the near-facial of Jeff Green in the Georgetown game) happened at crucial moments when he said "screw it" and let loose. Everyone keeps criticizing Oden's demeanor, but as I've written before, the same approach worked for Robert Parish, who won three rings and made the Basketball Hall of Fame. And by all accounts, you need to watch Oden in person to fully appreciate him -- there's a force-of-nature quality about him that prejudices anyone who's watched him live.



(Quick tangent: I haven't seen Oden in person yet, but the last point makes total sense to me. Young Shaq resonated in a similar way, as did David Robinson and LeBron James right now. You could call this the Bo Jackson Corollary -- when watching an athlete live is a totally different experience than watching him on TV. Robinson was my favorite example because he'd glide onto the court for pregame warmups and you'd feel everyone staring at him and thinking the same thing: "Holy crap, that guy is a physical SPECIMEN." Then the game would start and he'd zoom around like a shooting guard in a 7-footer's body for 48 minutes. Just awesome to watch. If you were asked to build a center from scratch, you'd build David Robinson and call it a day. Sadly, the same thing that made him such a valuable superstar for NBA purposes also made him a bit of an underachiever: He was too nice a guy. But that's a whole other story.)



So given that we're conceding all these points, what's the case against Oden then? You could sum it up in one sentence: He hasn't earned that No. 1 spot yet.



Barring a monster effort against Florida, we could make it through the entire college hoops season without a definitive "Oden Game." On my Celtics message board, a poster named Rocco (a Durant backer) has been playing devil's advocate with Oden's "franchise center" tag all season, writing over and over again, "If he's really a franchise center, when are we actually gonna see it?" That's an irrefutable point. We haven't seen it. Not for an entire game, anyway. Saturday's victory over Georgetown was the quintessential Oden experience: Two cheap fouls in the first half, followed by the weird phenomenon of Oden's team playing better without him (a recurrent theme with OSU games this season ... EWING THEORY ALERT!!!!), and then Oden making just enough happen in the second half to keep the door open that he's a franchise center masquerading as a freshman who averages a 15-9, keeps getting into foul trouble and rarely takes over games.



Anyway, we have one last chance to watch him tonight against a Florida team that features the best collection of college big men in recent memory: Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Chris Richard (my favorite sleeper for the 2007 draft). If there was ever a time for Oden to kick ass in a big game, tonight would be the night. Still, I just can't shake the feeling that we're headed for another spotty performance, followed by the usual round of excuses, then six weeks of everyone wondering whether Oden will turn pro, or why we should care that much in the first place. Would I be more excited if Kevin Durant was playing tonight? Yes. Yes I would.



Some other scattered thoughts heading into tonight's NCAA title game:



1. Like everyone else, I was disappointed with the quality of the Final Four games but blame bad luck over anything else: It's far too easy for a big college game to get sidetracked by foul trouble, which is why I continue to push for a change to the rules -- nobody can foul out until his sixth foul, but if he's called for that sixth foul, he's disqualified and the opposing team gets two shots plus the ball (like with an intentional foul). Problem solved.



2. I hope Thad Matta pops that zit before tonight's game.



3. Roy Hibbert is looming as the most divisive lottery pick this June -- some believe his lack of athletic ability makes him a backup center at best, while others see him as a potential All-Star. I'm closer to the latter camp because he reminds me a little of Rik Smits, who was unequivocally one of the most underappreciated players of the past 20 years.



Maybe Reggie Miller received the most attention on those contending Indiana teams in the mid-'90s, but Smits was their most valuable player -- he gave them a low-post offense and always commanded a double team, which opened the floor for Reggie. In his prime (a four-year stretch from '95 to '98), Smits averaged 18 points and 7 rebounds a game, shot 52 percent from the field and 78 percent from the free-throw line and shined during the '95 playoffs (averaging a 20-7 over 17 games and outplaying Ewing). Unfortunately, he couldn't crack an All-Star team until the tail end of his prime ('98) because Mourning, Ewing and Dikembe Mutombo were always blocking the way. But that Pacers team made three runs at the title ('94, '95 and '98) with Smits providing the entire low-post offense.



And if that's not enough, he had a great nickname (The Dunking Dutchman), he kept the middle-part hairdo going for about eight years after it became taboo, he made one of the most underrated playoff game-winners ever (a buzzer-beater in the '95 playoffs against Orlando in a game in which the lead changed hands four times in the last 15 seconds), and he delighted NBA fans to no end when he shaved his head during the '98 playoffs (became the all-time answer to the trivia question, "Which NBA player looked the worst with a shaved head?").



Needless to say, I enjoyed the Smits Era and he's the center on my All-Underrated Team from the past 20 years, along with Tom Chambers, Detlef Schrempf, Nick Anderson and Mark Price, as well as Ricky Pierce and Eddie Johnson coming off the bench. (Note: Big Shot Brob would have been the starting power forward as recently as three years ago, but everyone appreciates him now so he's fairly rated.) Hibbert won't be as good offensively unless he can develop Smits' deadly 17-footer, but he's a better shotblocker and rebounder, as well as someone who could take advantage down low against smaller players in the pros. He's also a legitimate 7-foot-2, which gives him something in common with only 5-6 players in the NBA right now. I like him. He's a top-eight pick in my mind. Unquestionably.



4. As for teammate Jeff Green, I had him pencilled into my top six until Saturday's ghastly performance against OSU, when he reverted back to pre-February "maybe I'll let the game come to me instead of taking it over" mode. Bad move. Was he nervous? Was he intimidated by OSU's big guys? Impossible to say. But when somebody's major draft-day gimmick is, "I come through when it matters," and then he disappears in a Final Four game ... well, that's not good.



5. Did we ever figure out how Dick Vitale can endorse Pizza Hut and DiGiorno's at the same time? Isn't that like doing ads for Pepsi and Diet Coke?



6. We're officially adding Mike Conley Jr. to the list of college studs who should be mailed the tape of Shaun Livingston's gruesome knee injury. I remember the specific moment of the season when he turned the corner -- the tail end of the home Wisconsin game on Feb. 25, about two minutes after Billy Packer said something along the lines of "Conley needs to realize that he's the guy on this team who takes over at the end of games," and then he did just that (and made the game-winner in the final 10 seconds).



Here's the thing I love about Conley, other than his athletic ability (off the charts), his decision-making (nearly flawless) and his ridiculous 2.76 assist/turnover ratio (as a freshman!): Just like Isiah Thomas and John Stockton back in the day, Conley spends the first 90 percent of the game running the show and getting everyone else involved and making his teammates happy, then easily switches gears and takes over games if they need his offense down the stretch. Juggling that delicate balance between "facilitator" and "playmaker" is the single hardest challenge for any young point guard; even someone as great as Isiah didn't figure out how to pull it off until his sixth NBA season. Conley already knows how to juggle that balance ... and he's only 19 years old.



Does he need another year in college to improve his 3-point shooting (only 30 percent this season) and hone the finer points of his game? Yeah, probably. But who's to say those refinements couldn't happen at the pro level? Right now, he's a top-10 pick and the best point guard in a loaded draft. Sounds good to me. As Shaun Livingston would tell you, carpe diem.



7. I was trapped in the car during the first few minutes of the OSU-Georgetown game and heard something crazy: Westwood One's radio announcers were Kevin Harlan, Bill Raftery ... and John Thompson.
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Old 04-02-2007, 09:56 PM   #2
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Default Re: Bill Simmons doesn't buy the Greg Oden hype....

There's more at his page on ESPN.com.
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Old 04-02-2007, 09:59 PM   #3
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Default Re: Bill Simmons doesn't buy the Greg Oden hype....

Bill Simmons also thought that Adam Morrison should've been the 1st overall pick last year.
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Old 04-02-2007, 10:06 PM   #4
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Default Re: Bill Simmons doesn't buy the Greg Oden hype....

Bill Simmons has a man crush on Kevin Durant.
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Old 04-02-2007, 10:07 PM   #5
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Default Re: Bill Simmons doesn't buy the Greg Oden hype....

Someone tell me just what the hell qualifies this chump as a sports expert anyway.
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Old 04-02-2007, 10:11 PM   #6
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Default Re: Bill Simmons doesn't buy the Greg Oden hype....

Bill who?
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Old 04-02-2007, 10:18 PM   #7
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Default Re: Bill Simmons doesn't buy the Greg Oden hype....

Guys are some h*ters (haha)........there's not one NBA expert that's gonna satisfy everybody. People are always going to have different opinions. At the very least, he's hysterical and admits his mistakes unlike other guys.

True fan getting paid to write and does it better than just about anybody.
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Old 04-02-2007, 10:42 PM   #8
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Default Re: Bill Simmons doesn't buy the Greg Oden hype....

Oh, that's why Oden is dominating the Florida frontline. That's right, he's just hyped up, nothing more, right.

He's outscored Noah, Horford and Richard combined and about matched them in boards. OSU is gonna make a run on the back of Oden and Conley, like they always do.
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Old 04-02-2007, 11:11 PM   #9
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Default Re: Bill Simmons doesn't buy the Greg Oden hype....

This is the greatest sportswriter ever. I wish he's the NBA commish.
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Old 04-02-2007, 11:11 PM   #10
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Default Re: Bill Simmons doesn't buy the Greg Oden hype....

This is the greatest sportswriter ever. I wish he's the NBA commish.
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Old 04-02-2007, 11:30 PM   #11
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Default Re: Bill Simmons doesn't buy the Greg Oden hype....

This may be the "Oden game" he wrote of yet it comes as a loss. he might get more respect for numbers in a loss than he did helping with 22 wins in a row. He seems like a "Do what is needed" player who wont care about his numbers. I was impressed today but not suprised. You give him the ball he will produce.
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Old 04-02-2007, 11:33 PM   #12
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Default Re: Bill Simmons doesn't buy the Greg Oden hype....

This is the first time I've really been impressed by Oden. I love how he demanded the ball over and over...
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Old 04-02-2007, 11:36 PM   #13
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Default Re: Bill Simmons doesn't buy the Greg Oden hype....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kblaze8855
This may be the "Oden game" he wrote of yet it comes as a loss. he might get more respect for numbers in a loss than he did helping with 22 wins in a row. He seems like a "Do what is needed" player who wont care about his numbers. I was impressed today but not suprised. You give him the ball he will produce.
It's precisely because he's a "do what's needed" guy that he didn't get love for the wins, just like Tim Duncan the last couple season - it doesn't seem to matter if you win anymore, it's your numbers and selfishness
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Old 04-02-2007, 11:39 PM   #14
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Default Re: Bill Simmons doesn't buy the Greg Oden hype....

Re: Oden...

Any questions now?

Simmons has been on a bad run lately. His Peyton Manning hate nows seem ridiculous, and his love of Durant is beyond that of the worst Kobe <or insert another overhyped player> *******. I believe Simmons once stated that Durant could be a top 5 all time player. So, be aware that his criticism of Oden comes from a guy who absolutely loves Oden's chief rival for the 1st overall pick.
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Old 04-02-2007, 11:40 PM   #15
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Default Re: Bill Simmons doesn't buy the Greg Oden hype....

Oden was dominant tonight. He showed just why he is worthy of the number one pick. He had his best game in the biggest game of his career. It was too bad nobody else on OSU came to play. Their shooting was just horrible.
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