Friday, October 30, 2009
Brush It Off Big Fella'
I knew exactly what the locker room would look like tonight before stepping through the heavy double doors that separate the team's sanctuary from the outside world. There would be a crowd of reporters in a semi-circle watching Greg Oden get dressed, recorders, cameras and microphones at the ready. Dante Cunningham, who inhabits the locker next to Oden, would be pushed aside while trying to get dressed by people half his size and infinitely less athletic. Sure enough, that's exactly what I saw.
I had no interest in joining the scrum. I was pretty sure I knew what he was going to say, and I'm positive he didn't need another camera shoved in his face, so I stood on the opposite side of the locker room waiting for it all to unfold.
And I wasn't alone. As the media horde stood quietly around Oden, head hung as he slipped a suit jacket over his shoulders, Brandon Roy, Jerryd Bayless, Juwan Howard, Rudy Fernandez and Joel Przybilla were all watching as well. I don't know if they were curious about how he would react to the moment, what he would say or what the media would ask, but they briefly stopped their own postgame rituals to take it in. All eyes were once again on Oden, just as they were when he missed two free throws that could have tied the game with 4.6 seconds to play.
He said the things you would expect him to say, though I doubt his teammates would agree with his conclusions. He put the loss on himself, talking about need to "step up" in pressure situations. While the later statement might be true, the former is not. Missing those free throws didn't loose that game. Shooting 34.6 percent from the field as a team took care of that.
The Blazers had 20 more attempts but the same number of makes as the Nuggets. Portland had more rebounds, more assists, fewer turnovers, more second chance points and only four fewer points in the paint while holding Denver to nine fastbreak points, but none of that mattered, just as missing two free throws didn't really matter. If the Blazers shoot even 40 percent from the field, which would still be a lackluster performance, they win going away. Instead, they head off to Houston 1-1.