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Living The Fantasy: After long wait, Oden finally arrives

By Rick Kamla,
Posted Nov 19 2008 4:39PM

After getting robbed of Greg Oden last year, and then seeing the basketball gods ruthlessly ruin his rookie debut, the build up of anticipation to finally see Oden get a true NBA run rivaled that of LeBron James' opener against Sacramento in 2003.

I was there -- standing three feet from my TV so I could concentrate on Oden's every move -- when he turned his ankle after 13 scoreless minutes against the Lakers, sending him to the shelf for 14 days.

Portland rookie Greg Oden demolished the Warriors' frontline on Tuesday night.
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

And I was there, via NBA League Pass Broadband --possibly the coolest thing in the world this side of live music -- when Oden dropped statement dunks on the Warriors on Tuesday.

Oden had 22 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in the loss to Golden State, giving Portland coach Nate McMillan at least a nanosecond of blissful pause before ruing his team's 21 turnovers.

The 20-year-old behemoth out of Indianapolis was setting mean screens as far out as the three-point line and then swiftly sliding his feet to regain paint position. He was changing shots and deflecting passes with his 7-foot-5 wingspan. He was active and accurate, going 6-of-8 from the line and 8-of-12 from the field.

But best of all, Oden twice combined with Brandon Roy on delicious pick-and-roll baskets that showed how dizzying the possibilities are for the Trail Blazers.

After watching Oden intently for five games now, it astonishes me how quickly he has improved since looking stiff and clumsy in 13 ineffective minutes against Andrew Bynum and the Lakers. I figured that after missing two weeks, Oden would be even farther behind in his development.

Alas, I was wrong.

The nightmarish opener may have been a case of Oden just having one of those days that mama told you about. It could be that the game slowed down for Oden while pondering things from the bench for a fortnight. And it's possible that Oden has thrived in matchups against less-physical centers like Tyson Chandler, Al Jefferson and Andris Biedrins.

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Whatever the reason for the seemingly overnight improvement, it is official...Greg Oden is a force to be reckoned with.

Last Friday against Chandler and the Hornets, Oden posted his first NBA double-double, with 11 and 11 to go with four blocks.

Last Saturday against Big Al and my Timberwolves, he rallied from the slow start to finish with 13 and 8 with three blocks.

Then he exploded against Biedrins and the Warriors, who were no match for his "hide the women and children" power dunks.

Oden's hands appeared to be stone hard against L.A. However, he was a veritable vacuum cleaner against the Warriors, showing soft hands while catching alley oops, rolling off picks and collecting before the flush and coming up with loose balls in the air and on the ground.

In short, he looked a helluva lot like the monster who nearly led Ohio State to a national championship.

Oden is finally healthy. Oden is finally getting his chance to show everyone what the fuss is about. And Greg Oden has finally arrived.

It was well worth the wait.

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