No one is quite sure if Greg Oden is ready to play basketball right now, but the center feels he will be able to play next season, giving teams in need of a big man an incentive to try and sign him for a minimum contract, and the New Orleans Pelicans are trying to do their best in order to convince him they’re the best place for him.
In the race for Oden, which seems to include plenty of NBA teams, the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs keep coming up as the favorites to land the player. Contenders, with a good enough roster that will allow Oden to return to the game quietly, without anyone expecting him to perform or to carry too many minutes on his fragile body.
But there’s another angle in play that might benefit the Pelicans, a small-market team with expectations (of themselves) to reach the playoffs, but without an aggressive local media scene, not to mention not being in the national spotlight when it comes to basketball.
According to Marc Stein, the Pelicans are trying to build their pitch around the peace of mind Oden will have if he chooses them, with no immediate pressure to cope with as he tries to make his long-awaited NBA comeback, which quite frankly, most people didn’t think was going to happen.
The Pelicans might be more desperate than most to get the deal done. Despite the additions of Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, the team is far from solid all-around, and only have one center, Greg Stiemsma, on contract for next season. With Stiemsma not playing more than 12 minutes on average in any of his four NBA seasons, there’s no doubt the Pelicans need another big man to play at center, unless they start shifting power forwards like Anthony Davis to the position.
There’s also Jeff Withey, but he’s a rookie. On the other hand, Oden is almost like a rookie himself.
As for Oden, he is one big enigma. He was averaging 11.1 points and 8.9 rebounds per game the last time he began a season (2009-2010), but it’ll be almost four years since his last game when he presumably picks up his NBA career again. Judging by how Brandon Roy did last year for the Timberwolves, it might be better for all parties not to expect too much, or anything at all, from the former number one overall pick.