Heartwarming little story--his dad just died, he's a 29-year-old local guy who has knocked around every miserable basketball league in the country, and now he's starting for the Blazers. George Dohrmann's story from Sports Illustrated starts like this:
On the eve of training camp, Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan sat down with Ime Udoka, a 6'5" free agent forward who grew up in Portland, and told him the odds. The team would keep, at most, 13 players, McMillan said, and the Trail Blazers already had that many under contract. "You are going to have to play so well that I go to the owner and beg him to let us keep you," he said.
McMillan knew "not a thing" about the 29-year-old Udoka. He was practice filler, a warm body, a long shot without a shot.
How, then, did Udoka end up pulling down a key offensive rebound in Portland's 110-106 opening-game win over the Sonics? And how did he get in the Blazers' starting lineup, becoming the NBA's most improbable early-season success story, all while mourning the sudden death of his father?
"You're not human if you can't feel good about what Ime's done," Portland assistant general manager Kevin Pritchard says. "Telling him he'd made the team was one of the best basketball experiences I've ever had."