Criticism sometimes necessary

28 09 2010

I saw a tweet from an NBA-affiliated guy who was upset at media members criticizing Greg Oden. If you don’t know much about Oden, then understand this: He’s a former No. 1 overall pick who’s a genuinely nice guy (I’ve never met him but have read plenty about his gregarious nature) and who has played 82 games in the NBA. That’d be fantastic if last season were his rookie year. Instead, it was the third season since he’d been drafted. Oden has played 82 games in three seasons because of various lower body injuries, mostly knee-related. He can’t stay healthy.

Meanwhile, the parallels between Oden and Sam Bowie grow. Both were No. 1 overall picks of the Portland Trail Blazers whose injury history in college created uncertainty for their pro careers. Both have let down their team to varying degrees, especially given that Bowie and Oden had a dominant wing player draft right after him. In 1984 and beyond, it was Michael Jordan who gave Trail Blazers fans a reason to throw up. Since 2007, it’s been Kevin Durant who Blazers fans could only look at longingly and wonder what he’d be like in black and red.

To say Oden has been a bust is both accurate and unfair. Accurate from the standpoint that the guy hasn’t done much in the League besides get injured. (He averaged 11 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks last season — but he played in just 21 games.) Criticizing Oden is unfair in the respect that he is still in just his early 20s. Give him more time, and he might prove himself.

But what I found irritating about the NBA guy who tweeted that Oden comment was he wasn’t looking at the situation realistically. The media’s role is to identify a situation, evaluate it and then report what’s going on, all from a realistic perspective. The media labeling Oden a bust might be unfair to a degree, but it’s not untrue. As Durant takes the Thunder into the postseason and Team USA to gold in this summer’s World Championships, Oden is rehabbing from yet another injury. Dwyane Wade won a championship for the Heat in his third season. LeBron James took the Cavs to the Finals in his fourth season. Chris Paul made the Hornets relevant two seasons after being drafted. Same with Carmelo Anthony and the Nuggets.

Truth is, if a guy is going to be great in the NBA, he’ll likely do it pretty soon after he’s drafted. Oden’s entering his fourth season and is simply looking to still get his feet wet. I agree that Oden should be assessed fairly. And what’s fair right now is to say Oden has been nothing but a disappointment. That’s simply reality.

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