Sunday, July 26, 2009
What Oden Did At Mini-Camp
Click here to watch video of the scrimmage
After two days of practice, Greg Oden wrapped up his stint at the USA Basketball mini-camp with a 10 rebound, seven-point performance in the Blue vs. White scrimmage at the Thomas & Mack Center Saturday night. Performance aside, it had to be somewhat satisfying for Oden wear the red, white and blue after missing out on various Team USA events over the past three years. Even if he doesn’t make the squad that will go on to play in Turkey in 2010 and England in 2012, you would have to think Greg felt a sense of accomplishment when he was able to represent his country, albeit on a much smaller stage.
Not that he was happy with the result. USA Blue, lead by Kevin Durant and Brook Lopez, beat Oden’s USA White side 100-81. Oden had a block, an assist and a steal to go along with his double-digit rebound total, but in the end it wasn’t enough to win the scrimmage.
USA White had a one point leading going into the half, but USA Blue blew the game open in the third, outscoring their counterparts 30-17. It should be noted that Oden, who started the game, sat out almost the entire third quarter as Team Blue built what would end up being an insurmountable lead. The point of the scrimmage was to evaluate which players might best fit in with the returning members of the “Redeem Team,” so it’s within the realm of possibility that Oden sat out longer than maybe he would have if winning were the ultimate goal.
There was much to like out of Oden’s performance. His stamina seemed to be much improved from just two days ago, which was probably due to a combination of increased adrenaline and conditioning. Oden didn’t once look winded in his 24 minutes of play, despite a pace that is likely faster than what he’s accustomed to playing in Portland.
GO once again showed why many think he’ll be much improved defensively in the upcoming season. Rarely was he goaded into leaving his feet on pump fakes or hesitation moves. His lateral quickness and foot speed seem to be better now than anytime after the microfracture surgery. He’s not winning any footraces out there, but he’s doing a fine job of getting up and down the court. He’s moving his feet really well, doing an excellent job of staying in front of his man. On one series in particular, Lopez threw a bevy of baseline moves at Oden, but he never took the bait.
The one glaring mistake Oden made on defense was not closing out on Lopez when he took a FIBA-shortened three-pointer, a shot he made. I think GO can be forgiven for that one considering Lopez isn’t exactly known for his ability to hit the outside shot.
He did commit four fouls, but none were of the foolish, forehead slap-inducing variety. In fact, I thought he did a nice job of using his body to contest shots and staying out of foul trouble. He didn’t throw his body at guys, but he didn’t shy away from contact either.
Oden did get the ball on offense more than he had during practices earlier this week. In fact, they went to him in the post on the very first play of the game. Oden was instantly doubled, so he kicked out, then reposted. He got the ball back, turned and shot his jump hook, which missed the mark, but it was still good to see him work through his progression on offense.
The points Oden did score came off plays Blazers fans would be happy to see in Portland next year. The first was a simple face-up baseline jumper over Lopez from about 15 feet. Oden shot it without hesitation, and I have to say it was one of the prettiest shots I’ve ever seen him take. If he can add a reliable midrange jumper to his game, it’s going to make life a whole lot easier for everyone.
The other play was a bit more impressive and even more encouraging. Oden set a high pick at the top of the key for Derrick Rose. He made a little contact with Thaddeus Young, who was checking Rose at the time. The chip forced Young, who had gone over the screen, to stumble a bit. With Young out of position, Lopez was forced to hard show to keep Rose from turning the corner for an open layup. Oden, recognizing Lopez was preoccupied with Rose, rolled to the basket. At that point Rose threw a bounce pass to Oden, which was a bit low, but he was able to collect the pass, continue his move to the basket and finish at the rim between both Lopez and Josh Smith. It was the most athletic move I had seen out of Greg this week, and I mean that in the best way possible.
All in all, Oden turned in a couple of nice days of basketball in Las Vegas. He set out to prove he could be a defensive presence in the paint, rebound on both ends of the floor and provide a bit of offense when needed, all of which he accomplished. He’s still got plenty to work on this summer, but he’s making progress. In the offseason, that’s about all you can ask for.