There can be hope and there can be skepticism expressed with a dismissive tone, and there can be sympathy for unrealized potential coupled with years of physical pain of a body haunted. But not surprise. There can be no surprise.
Greg Oden was always looking at a 2013-14 comeback, as reported last summer, and teams were always going to be interested in a very real way. He remained that intriguing. One general manager said last season, as Oden was sitting out with the latest in the cruel string of knee injuries, that the former No. 1 pick would be a “mid-level type player” as a restricted free agent in the summer of 2012 and “There’s no question he’ll get offers,” while another GM noted that “You could go down the list of teams. A lot of people don’t have as good a starting center as good as him if he comes back healthy.”
Everything changed when it was announced in February that Oden would undergo a third microfracture surgery, essentially ending his 2012-13 before it started, and the Trail Blazers finally gave into exhaustion and waived him in March to clear a roster spot needed to complete a trade. He instantly became an unrestricted free agent, with a longer comeback than ever.
But most of the league still tracked medical updates, with the understanding the plan all along was to return to Ohio State to take classes and rehab for 2013-14. That’s the thing. Front offices were not mocking Greg Oden at 25 years old even if others were. (Which may be the greatest statement of how much they thought he could have changed the game when he came into the league in 2007. Without being able to get close to that projected level of impact, with the five knee surgeries, without having played since December 2009, a lot of people still believed in 2013 that Oden could still deliver a defensive presence.)
Now comes news, via Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal, that the Cavaliers may make the investment. Cleveland is expected to offer Oden a contract for the remainder of this season and all of next plus 2014-15 at a team option, Lloyd reports, depending on how much of the current $4 million cap space it has left after the Feb. 21 trade deadline.
“Greg has been up there (to Cleveland) before and he’ll probably be up there again in an official capacity,” Mike Conley Sr., Oden’s agent, told the Beacon Journal.
There was no mention of the price range the Cavaliers were considering, but it obviously wouldn’t be that “mid-level type” anymore. Maybe it is somewhere around the minimum. Maybe the deal would include several incentive clauses that could mean big pay bumps based on games or minutes or time on the roster.
But paying him just to be on the roster this season, without expectation Oden would play, plus committing to next season despite the uncertain availability plus the 2014-15 tab that could include a buyout if the Cavaliers don’t pick up the option is an aggressive move even if the financial investment is low risk. Cleveland wants him off the market. Cleveland still believes he can make an impact, knees willing. Cleveland is not alone.