Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Updated: May 23, 10:41 AM ET
Oden plans to soak up Northwest
By Andy Katz
Greg Oden had no idea who landed the No. 1 pick while sitting on a plane en route from Indianapolis to Dallas Tuesday night until someone piped up and said "Portland."
"I looked up and said, 'Wow!'" Oden told ESPN.com by phone during a layover Tuesday night as he was making his way West to Las Vegas for a Wednesday news conference to announce his participation on Team USA for the Olympic qualifying Tournament of Americas to be played in Vegas this summer.
"All I've been hearing is Boston and Memphis and I didn't have Portland in my thoughts," the Ohio State freshman center said. "That's not what I've been hearing the past couple of weeks. It was a big surprise to me."
Memphis and Boston finished with the two worst records in the NBA and had the most likely chances of landing the top picks. Instead, the Celtics drew No. 5 while Memphis will pick No. 4.
Portland got the top pick, followed by Seattle and then Atlanta, which gets to keep its pick since it was protected in the top three in a trade for Joe Johnson with Phoenix.
Oden said he had some familiarity with Portland and Seattle since he had watched those teams this past season.
"I know about [Rookie of the Year] Brandon Roy and LaMarcus [Aldridge] and I know the team is in the Northwest," Oden said. "I know it rains there a lot. Seattle has Ray Allen and has great players around Ray Allen. I really haven't had time to think about how I would fit in. I have to do more research.
"But wherever I go I'm going to be a sponge and be ready to learn.''
Oden said he saw Al Harrington of the Golden State Warriors in Indianapolis earlier this week and he told him that he loves playing in the West.
"He said all we do is run and I looked at him and said, 'really?' and then he said if you like to play go out West, it's fun out there,''' Oden said. "It's going to be a running experience for me. I'm definitely going to be dunked on out there. It's going to be a challenge.''
Oden said coincidentally he is going to be at the Nike headquarters outside of Portland later in the week after the stop in Las Vegas. He said he doesn't have a signed deal yet.
According to Ohio State, Oden did withdraw from the final spring quarter but will get credit for the summer, fall and winter quarters.
"It's ironic and kind of crazy but a deal isn't done yet,'' Oden said of Nike.
Oden said he hasn't thought about going to either one of the Northwest franchises that are in decent-sized cities but out of the major media markets.
"Wherever I go I know it's going to be great,'' Oden said. "I can go there and win a championship. That's all I'm thinking about.''
Oden said he's committing to playing with Team USA, coached by Mike Krzyzewski of Duke and assisted by Portland coach Nate McMillan, Phoenix's Mike D'Antoni and Syracuse's Jim Boeheim.
And, assuming that the Blazers take Oden then he'll get to be a sponge with his new coach all summer long.
|Andy Katz's Mock Draft
|1.||Portland: Greg Oden, Ohio State|
|2.||Seattle: Kevin Durant, Texas|
|3.||Atlanta: Brandan Wright, North Carolina|
|4.||Memphis: Al Horford, Florida|
|5.||Boston: Yi Jianlian, Guandong Tigers |
|6.||Milwaukee: Mike Conley, Ohio State|
|7.||Minnesota: Corey Brewer, Florida|
|8.||Charlotte: Joakim Noah, Florida|
|9.||Chicago: Spencer Hawes, Washington|
|10||Sacramento: Jeff Green, Georgetown|
|11.||Atlanta: Acie Law, Texas A&M|
|12.||Philadelphia: Julian Wright, Kansas|
|13.||New Orleans: Al Thornton, Florida State|
|14.||L.A. Clippers: Jason Smith, Colorado State|
Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.