PDA

View Full Version : A feel good Oden article to get your minds off You-Know-Who



Kegboy
08-06-2007, 10:01 PM
And there's even a Josh McRoberts cameo for MTO.

PacerGirl, you don't work at Cheeseburger in Paradise, do you? ;)

http://www.oregonlive.com/blazers/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/sports/1186206971277340.xml&coll=7

A new life ... few changes

Blazers rookie Greg Oden still has his feet firmly planted on the ground despite newfound wealth

Sunday, August 05, 2007
JOE FREEMAN
The Oregonian

INDIANAPOLIS -- On a sweltering hot August afternoon, the savior of the Trail Blazers strides toward the entrance of a Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant, bragging about the popcorn shrimp. The front door swings open.

"I'm mad at you," a teenage hostess said, half kidding, half serious. "You never texted me back."

Greg Oden points to his waist, where an iPhone is clipped, and explains that he recently got a new cell phone.

"Oh," she replied, grabbing the phone. "You guys want to sit inside or outside?"

The hostess guides Oden and his lunch guest through the restaurant to a booth as people gaze up at the towering 7-footer strolling by.

The 19-year-old is the newest face of the NBA, a No. 1 draft pick and can't-miss talent who is supposed to lift the once-proud Blazers franchise back among the NBA's elite. But for Oden, this summer is as much about learning to live with those expectations as it is about honing his game.

Oden has signed a multimillion-dollar contract with the Trail Blazers and endorsement deals with Nike, Topps trading card company and a video game manufacturer. He suddenly lives in a tax bracket most -- including himself -- cannot fathom.

But, despite the newfound fortune and a Hollywood-like lifestyle that has whisked him from awards shows to photo shoots to autograph-signing sessions, Oden seems to be the humble and down-to-earth teenager he was before the Blazers made him their franchise centerpiece.

He still lives with his mother in the Indianapolis apartment he grew up in and he still works out at his high school gymnasium. Until last week, his primary transportation was his mother's Ford Taurus. And, yes, he even dines at places such as Cheeseburger in Paradise.

"He hasn't changed at all," said Josh McRoberts, a high school friend and new Blazers teammate. "He's a guy who doesn't fake it. He's the same guy to everyone. Sometimes I have to look out for him because he truly doesn't understand that everyone knows who he is and that he's a big deal. He's an honest guy and he's one of the best people I know. He hasn't let all the attention and money get to his head."

Last week, Oden resumed basketball workouts for the first time since undergoing a tonsillectomy on July 14, and in less than two months he will start training camp at the Blazers' Tualatin practice facility, where the pressure of resurrecting the Blazers will be placed squarely on his broad shoulders.

Until then, he says he will work on his game in as much anonymity as he can find and try to adjust to his recent celebrity.

A preference for simplicity
Oden, seated in the driver's seat of a new sport utility vehicle, tilts his head back and chuckles as he tells the story about how he scored his new wheels. Until last week, Oden cruised Indianapolis in his mother's Taurus, a popular family sedan that hasn't found its niche among the NBA elite.

LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers' standout forward who was selected second overall in last year's NBA draft, arrived here last week for training and was flabbergasted when Oden picked him up.

"He was like, 'Man, you can't be driving around in this,' " Oden said, laughing. "You're the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft."

The next day, Aldridge set Oden up with the SUV, on loan from a dealer, so Oden could travel more like an NBA veteran the rest of the offseason.

Oden plans to buy a Chevrolet Avalanche when he moves to Portland in September, but don't expect him to add custom 20-inch rims, headrest DVD players or other lavish eccentricities. He plans to go "G.O. style," which, Oden says, is "regular," right off the showroom floor.

"How many No. 1 picks would be driving a Ford Taurus?" said Blazers assistant coach Bill Bayno, who ran Oden's workouts last week. "He's not really caught up in all the hype. And that's nice. I think the NBA needs that. A lot of these guys are caught up in the wrong things: money and cars and bling. Greg's just a good dude; a down-to-earth kid. I don't think he'll let the money or the fame change him, which is rare in the NBA."

If there is one word that does not describe Oden, it's bling. He doesn't sport a molded $9,000 diamond-studded tooth guard, a la Zach Randolph, or even a diamond earring. The only noticeable "jewelry" Oden wears around his neck is a red Ohio State shoestring necklace that holds a plastic pouch and doubles as a wallet. He rarely leaves home without it.

And if you think a teenage millionaire who grew up living in an apartment would install the newest high-tech gadgets and state-of-the-art toys in his first house, think again. Oden says he is in the process of purchasing the Tualatin home of former Blazers guard Juan Dixon -- a place that will come almost fully furnished.

Oden has not even the smallest desire to deck out the house.

"Nooooo," he says, shaking his head. "I go in there, and there's stuff already there, I don't have to worry about anything. As long as they change the sheets, I'm good."

Facing family pressures
If only some of Oden's extended family members were as eager to accept a similar modest lifestyle.

Oden has run into his share of obstacles since declaring for the NBA draft after an All-American freshman season at Ohio State. Amid epic expectations, he flopped in two games at the NBA Summer League, largely because he had a sinus infection and tonsils so enlarged they inhibited his breathing.

He endured the tonsillectomy, was forced to miss a USA Basketball minicamp and had to stop basketball activity altogether for two weeks. And throughout it all, he faced such intense media attention and became so mentally drained, his agents dragged him from the spotlight.

But Oden's most recent conundrum is perhaps his most troubling: Members of his extended family are asking for money, even though he already provides assistance.

"I didn't expect that at all," Oden said. "I thought my family was cool. You hear stories, but I'm like, nah, my family is cool."

Oden's mother, Zoe, has put her son on a strict budget in the early stages of his professional career, and they have hired a financial planner to manage his funds. He might earn millions of dollars a year, but Oden is living off a $10,000 biweekly stipend.

"They were living with a lot less money than what I am hooking them up with," Oden said of his extended family. "I'm like, 'You can make (the money I give you) work.' I'm getting $10,000 and I bet you I won't use more than $2,000 of that every two weeks. Because I don't need it. And they don't, either."

Motivated to succeed
Down the hall from a framed picture of Oden in the Lawrence North High School Hall of Fame and beneath gigantic team photos of the three teams Oden guided to Indiana prep state championships, Aldridge stands on the basketball court, waving his arms and screaming at his newest teammate.

"Ahhhhhh!" Aldridge yelled. "Play-offs! Play-offs! We haven't been in four years! You're our savior! Sav-ior! Sav-ior!"

At the free throw line, Oden stands stone-faced. He proceeds through a free-throw routine he has done thousands of times, looks at the rim and shoots.

Clang. Aldridge laughs.

"Man, he's going through stuff that I never had to go through," Aldridge said. "I wasn't the savior. I came in and nobody expected anything from me. People actually expect him to come in and carry us to a championship."

The NBA released its schedule Thursday and the Blazers will play in 12 nationally televised games, including the season opener at reigning champion San Antonio and a feature game on Christmas Day vs. Seattle and No. 2 pick Kevin Durant. Suddenly, the Jail Blazers are relevant for reasons other than off-the-court transgressions.

And it's mostly because of Oden.

"There's pressure, I'm not going to lie," he said. "But it's not like I have a choice. It's not like I can press a button and win championships . . . I wish it was that easy. I don't know if the ball is going to go in. I can shoot it with perfect form. It can still roll out. I just have to work hard and play my game and everything else will take care of itself."

The hard work already has begun. Oden and McRoberts participated in workouts last week as Bayno and Aldridge introduced the rookies to a taste of NBA basketball. On Wednesday, Bayno dragged the trio through a rigorous, often fast-paced, two-hour workout that featured everything from full-court sprinting, to one-on-one post play to rapid-fire perimeter shooting.

During his recovery from surgery, Oden lost strength, stamina and at least five pounds, even though he admits he ate ribs just five days after his tonsils were removed. He's slowly working back into shape, regaining weight -- two double cheeseburgers, medium fries and a large soda every morning at 1 a.m. is his secret -- and he is highly motivated to live up to the lofty expectations when training camp starts in October.

"He's going to have his growing pains," Bayno said. "And that was evident in summer league. But summer league wasn't a good gauge . . .

"I think he'll get better a lot sooner than most kids his age would. If you look at 19-year-olds in the NBA. Kobe (Bryant) struggled. It took him three years to break out. Kevin Garnett. Dirk Nowitzki. Especially the big guys. I think Greg will progress faster."

A generous nature
Back at Cheeseburger in Paradise, Oden finishes his popcorn shrimp and prepares to leave. It's time to visit an old friend who recently became a father.

Oden has yet to meet the baby and he has a surprise for his friend.

"He was telling me last night that all he does is watch DVDs," Oden said, "and I was like, 'Man, I have an Xbox 360 (video game console) that I haven't even taken out of the box. That'll give you something to do. It's yours.' "

Oden rises, waves goodbye to the hostess on his way out, and walks out of Cheeseburger in Paradise. But before he reaches the parking lot, a mother and her son have chased him down.

"Excuse me," the women says, holding out a crayon and restaurant coloring paper. "Would you mind giving my son an autograph?"

She introduces herself and her wide-eyed son to Oden, who smiles, and says, "Sure," before shaking their hands.

"I didn't want to interrupt your meal, so we were watching you guys eat and as soon as you left, we chased you out," she said.

"Thanks for that," he said. "Thanks for not interrupting my meal. I really appreciate that."

Joe Freeman: 503-294-5183; joefreeman@news.oregonian.com
To read the Behind the Blazers Beat blog, go to http://blog.oregonlive.com/behindblazersbeat/

Kegboy
08-06-2007, 10:01 PM
Just think, only 5 more years until he hits free agency.

ajbry
08-06-2007, 10:10 PM
I wasn't thinking about Voldemort but thanks for the article...

purdue101
08-06-2007, 10:16 PM
i actually met aldridge about a week ago while running around the pond behind champps (northside). he is staying at the marriott next door and was on his way home. i knew as i approached him that he had to be a ball player.....the guy is absolutely enormous. as i got closer i thought it was shawne, but than noticed it was aldridge as we passed.

he was nice enough to stop and chat for a couple mins about his team. said he and oden are working out hard 2-3 times a day. talked a little about randolph leaving and how it's a great opportunity for him to break out this year. he mentioned that danny joined in for a workout with he and greg. i wished him good luck and that was that.

all around nice guy. i've met a few other NBA players around town who won't give casual fans the time of day.

Hicks
08-06-2007, 10:29 PM
Nice read. I wish more NBA players were like that. Well, those that aren't bench or role players, that is. Would have done our franchise a ton of good if he'd somehow wound up in our laps. Would've been to us what LeBron is to Cleveland/Ohio. :sigh:

Kegboy
08-06-2007, 10:30 PM
i actually met aldridge about a week ago while running around the pond behind champps (northside). he is staying at the marriott next door and was on his way home. i knew as i approached him that he had to be a ball player.....the guy is absolutely enormous. as i got closer i thought it was shawne, but than noticed it was aldridge as we passed.

he was nice enough to stop and chat for a couple mins about his team. said he and oden are working out hard 2-3 times a day. talked a little about randolph leaving and how it's a great opportunity for him to break out this year. he mentioned that danny joined in for a workout with he and greg. i wished him good luck and that was that.

all around nice guy. i've met a few other NBA players around town who won't give casual fans the time of day.

I lived in those apartments for 4 and a half years, and I never ran into any NBA players. (Of course, I didn't run around the pond either, just sat on my balcony and watched the hot chicks run by.)

Kegboy
08-06-2007, 10:31 PM
I wasn't thinking about Voldemort but thanks for the article...

What can I say, I just read Sorcerer's Stone.

Trader Joe
08-06-2007, 11:10 PM
Just think, only 5 more years until he hits free agency.

Don't even get your hopes up...

Kegboy
08-06-2007, 11:18 PM
Don't even get your hopes up...

You never know, he and Mike might wanna come home.

:pray:

Trader Joe
08-06-2007, 11:21 PM
You never know, he and Mike might wanna come home.

:pray:

I'm gonna say this as nicely as I can, I seriously, seriously doubt that. Maybe MIke because I guess we could be better than Memphis, but Portland will be kicking the hell out of people by then.

beast23
08-06-2007, 11:23 PM
Just think, only 5 more years until he hits free agency.Oh, he'd never want to sign with the Pacers. I mean, just ask the trolls... he'll want to sign with the Lakers... where everybody wants to play.

In fact, 5 years from now, the Lakers will probably do a sign-and-trade with the Blazers. They'll probably only have to give up Jesus Christ.... er Crittendon plus a #1 for Oden. Right trolls?

Trader Joe
08-06-2007, 11:31 PM
Oh, he'd never want to sign with the Pacers. I mean, just ask the trolls... he'll want to sign with the Lakers... where everybody wants to play.

In fact, 5 years from now, the Lakers will probably do a sign-and-trade with the Blazers. They'll probably only have to give up Jesus Christ.... er Crittendon plus a #1 for Oden. Right trolls?

Pssh, if the Blazers wanna get JC they'll have to pony up Aldridge and Oden, at least.

Kegboy
08-06-2007, 11:44 PM
I'm gonna say this as nicely as I can, I seriously, seriously doubt that. Maybe MIke because I guess we could be better than Memphis, but Portland will be kicking the hell out of people by then.

You never know, Mike Conley Sr. might be GM/coach by then. :devil:

Eindar
08-06-2007, 11:46 PM
I know one thing for sure: He's still eating like a 19 year old rookie. Hopefully someone tells him that cheeseburgers, soda, and popcorn chicken is a good way to feel like you're dying by the all-star break.

Kegboy
08-06-2007, 11:57 PM
I know one thing for sure: He's still eating like a 19 year old rookie. Hopefully someone tells him that cheeseburgers, soda, and popcorn chicken is a good way to feel like you're dying by the all-star break.

Yep, sounds like he needs a nutritionist. We should do Portland a favor, trade them Tinsley for Jack and Aldridge. He'll set the boy right.

Robertmto
08-07-2007, 12:58 PM
That popcorn shrimp is pretty damn good.

Roy Munson
08-08-2007, 12:44 PM
Oden seems like a bit of a normal dorky teenage kid trapped in Robert Parish's body.

ChicagoJ
08-08-2007, 04:43 PM
You never know, Mike Conley Sr. might be GM/coach by then. :devil:

Nah... not until after the Chicago Olympics in 2016. He will still be pretty busy until then.