Excuse Greg Oden
if he feels a little bit anxious. The 2007 No. 1 overall pick had to wait 16 months for his NBA rookie debut. Should Oden win top rookie honors this season, he would become the first player in league history to do so after missing an entire season due to injury. In a recent interview with John Hareas of NBA.com, Oden covered a number of topics, including the overall health of his right knee, his impending regular-season debut against Andrew Bynum and the Lakers, getting advice from the greatest big man in Blazer history Ė Bill Walton, his competition for rookie of the year and addressing those Justin Timberlake man-crush rumors.
NBA.com: How would you rate your health: Is the right knee 100 percent?
Greg Oden: It feels like it. I have no problems with it, but Iím not going to give percentages. I just know that thereís really no problems with it every time I play.
NBA.com: What are your goals for the upcoming season?
Greg Oden: Just to win. To try to get out there and help my team win as much as possible. Iím not really worried about individual stats. For me, if my team can make the playoffs or we can win a lot more games than we did last year, then that will satisfy me.
NBA.com: The last playoff appearance for the Blazers was in 2003. Do you think the team will make it in the loaded Western Conference?
Greg Oden: We have a chance. Hopefully we can get things together at the beginning of the season and become a good enough team to make it.
NBA.com: Who is your main competition for Rookie of the Year?
Greg Oden: Derrick Rose. He has that kind of maturity about him when you see him play. And Mike Beasley because of all the talent that he has. There are a couple of guys who I think are sleepers out there, like a few of the seniors who can come in and be a lot more mature and make an impact.
NBA.com: Are there any rookies that you think will fly under the radar this season in terms of making an impact for their teams?
Greg Oden: I think so just because they donít have all the pressure that us guys at the top have, so they can come in and actually play without all the critics getting on them and getting in their head. It kind it depends on who the guy is playing for too, if they have a chance to play with that team. Iím looking at maybe like an Eric Gordon or Russell Westbrook or
NBA.com: You got to know the greatest big man in Blazers history, Bill Walton, a little bit. What advice has he shared with you?
Greg Oden: Heís just telling me if you go out there and play, you donít have to worry about what people say about you in the news or the media. Just go out there and play your game and have fun with it. Itís just a game. Youíve got to understand that youíre a rookie. Donít put any pressure on yourself that isnít needed.
NBA.com: What do you know about the game of your new teammate and fellow rookie Rudy Fernandez?
Greg Oden: All I really know about his game is what I saw in the championship game, but I actually got to talk to him at Rookie Transition and heís a pretty good guy. Iím hoping heíll be a pretty good asset to our team.
NBA.com: What has impressed you the most about Brandon Roy?
Greg Oden: I got to know him pretty well off the court. Heís a good guy. Heís real cool. And I just like how he takes over games. Heís a guy that doesnít need all the flash or all the attention, but he goes out there and does what he has to do.
NBA.com: Have you discussed what to expect during your rookie season with your buddy, Mike Conley?
Greg Oden: We talked a little bit this summer. He basically said itís a long season, a long grind and these vets know a lot about the game, so they do a lot of little tricks that will get you and give them an advantage. Youíve just got to be careful and be smart when youíre out there. Just keep on working hard because the season is long. You have to be in shape.
NBA.com: Youíre making your regular-season debut against the Lakers and their own returning center, Andrew Bynum. What do you know about his game?
Greg Oden: I learned a lot about him last year before he got hurt. I started watching some film on him and I saw how he was playing and moving and doing really good. Heís coming off an injury too. Hopefully heís around the same place that I am. I know that heís a good player and itís going to be a difficult challenge for me.
NBA.com: You recently took a five-week biology class at Ohio State over the summer. What was that experience like?
Greg Oden: It was just a good thing for me to be back on Ohio Stateís campus. It was something that I wanted to do and it was a little stepping stone towards me getting my degree.
NBA.com: You performed with Justin Timberlake at the ESPYs and the video of you singing karaoke of NíSyncís ďItís Gonna Be MeĒ is all over the Internet. Are you trying to get the band back together or something?
Greg Oden: No, no (laughing). Iím just a fan. Somebody told me that that they said on the radio that I have a man crush on Justin Timberlake. It was kind of funny. Iím just a fan and it came up and it was for kids so I had no problem about people putting it on the Internet and saying I sucked. It was a fun time for organ mentors, this thing I had going on last Saturday.
And no, I do not have that big of a man crush on Justin Timberlake. Iíll put it like that.
NBA.com: Finish the sentence: Growing up the basketball court was myÖ
Greg Oden: Everything. Growing up in Terre Haute, Indiana thereís not a whole lot to do. What I did was I just went to the basketball court at the Boys & Girls Club and literally stayed there all day until my mom got off of work.
NBA.com: How large does the Larry Bird legend loom in Terre Haute, where he grew up?
Greg Oden: Itís pretty big. Just basketball in general in Indiana is just huge, so thatís everybodyís getaway. Thatís our main thing, to think about the history. Obviously Larry Bird is a very, very big part of that.
NBA.com: To what lengths would you go to play basketball when you were growing up, even if it was just to shoot around?
Greg Oden: I would leave and go to the gym at 10 in the morning and not come back until 6. All I remember is being in the gym all day just shooting.
NBA.com: Growing up, who was your basketball hero and why?
Greg Oden: My favorite player growing up was David Robinson. He was really the first person that I actually knew about and actually watched.
NBA.com: What was your favorite basketball childhood memory?
Greg Oden: My first basket. It was for the wrong team in fifth grade. I started to play in the fourth grade and didnít score for like a whole year. I finally got in at the end of a game and I definitely made it for the wrong team. I was hyped because it was my first basket, so I really didnít care.
NBA.com: The best piece of basketball advice you received wasÖ
Greg Oden: Just go out there and play. Itís a game. Donít put too much pressure on yourself that you canít have fun.
NBA.com: How proud is your family that you made it to the NBA?
Greg Oden: My mom is very proud. Iím even more thankful to her for all that she did for me and all that she did to get me to where I am right now. So Iím happy that I can actually pay her back.
NBA.com: How anxious are you to start this season?
Greg Oden: I am very excited. My trainer is getting a little mad at me. Iím supposed to be playing every other game but yesterday I was so excited that I just played all the games in a row without taking any rest. Iím anxious to get out there and start playing. Iím getting in shape right now and thatís the hardest thing for me.