Courtesy of MCT
Former Ohio State all-American Greg Oden is on the comeback trail, but he still isn’t close to knowing where he wants to play – at least according to his former teammate and OSU walk-on Mark Titus.
The 2007 No. 1 overall pick of the Portland Trailblazers has been rehabilitating his knee and working out with the OSU men’s basketball team regularly. Recently, rumors have surfaced that Oden, who lives in Columbus, has been in talks with multiple NBA teams about signing a free agent contract.
Titus, who gained fame for “Club Trillion” blog while at OSU and has since published a book based on his experiences, said he talks to Oden “all the time” and as recently as Wednesday. In an interview with The Lantern’s sports podcast, “Inside Buckeye Nation,” Titus discussed Oden’s NBA outlook.
“I have talked to him about teams and he’s thrown out like every single team to me. I don’t think he really knows where he’s going to go,” Titus, who played with Oden at OSU during the 2006-07 season and on an AAU team during high school, said.
Two teams, the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers, have been rumored to be the frontrunners for the former OSU star.
Oden told the Cleveland Plain Dealer he doesn’t have any plans set in stone, but likes his progress.
“I like how my knee is going, the way it’s going,” he said. “I still like the time I’m taking, just to make sure nothing happens. You can’t predict the future. But if it doesn’t happen, I’m happy.”
Titus said the Caveliers and the Heat are both attractive options.
“Miami is certainly a sexy destination for him I guess. He would have no pressure whatsoever. I know he’s a huge LeBron (James) fan, and playing with him would be awesome. I think, obviously, the warm weather’s cool and all that,” Titus said. “Miami seems like a great fit for him and I know he’s a fan of Miami, but that’s not always how it works out.”
Titus said Oden has told him he wants to live in Columbus once he retires, remarking that “might be sooner rather than later.” Playing in Cleveland would also be a good fit for Oden, Titus said.
“He loves Ohio,” Titus said. “I’ve heard Cleveland get thrown out there and that would certainly make sense to me, too. He kind of likes the Midwest and could stay here.”
Mike Conley Sr., Oden’s agent, told the Akron Beacon Journal playing this year is not the top priority for his client.
“Our main focus is on next year or the year after,” Conley said. “What (salary) cap space looks like during that time, who knows?”
But Oden isn’t just thinking about those two franchises.
“I’ve heard everybody from Memphis to San Antonio to Phoenix to these other teams. Honestly, I talk to him all the time about it but he gives me a different answer every time I talk to him,” Titus said.
When Oden does decide on a team, Titus said he would be told.
“I honestly don’t think he knows. He would tell me if he knows. He really just has no idea where he’s going to end up,” Titus said.
The 7-foot, 285-pound Oden turned 25 on Jan. 22. After leading OSU to the Final Four in 2007, he missed his rookie season in Portland with a knee injury. He then played 61 games in 2008-09 and 21 in 2009-10. More injuries and setbacks caused the Trailblazers to later release Oden. He played his last NBA game Dec. 5, 2009.
Right now, Oden is just working on getting back to 100 percent health.
“He’s just focused on getting healthy and he’ll figure (teams) later I think,” Titus said.
One of Oden’s best friends at OSU, Titus said that “mentally” Oden is ready to play right now. Oden, though, has learned from previous experiences not to play until he is completely good to go.
“It kills him to see basketball on TV and all that kind of stuff,” Titus said. “I know it kills him to see guys playing and for him to not be out there when he probably could be out there if he really wanted to. But I think his priority is just to, you know, get completely healthy and hit the ground running when the next year comes.”