Reports came out recently and reported that Greg Oden underwent a third micro-fracture surgery on his knee. He has spent more time on the injured reserve list then on the court for the Portland Trail Blazers. While his talent and potential have been clearly seen by those who have watched him play, it is the process of getting there has been incredibly difficult.
Bill Walton suggested some time ago that Oden take his money and retire some place warm and start over. I bet that is a tempting option, especially now, but I have a different suggestion – head to Phoenix to play for the Suns.
The current Suns team has three centers on the roster – Marcin Gortat, Channing Frye, and Robin Lopez. Gortat is going to be the starter for the future and has played well since being traded from the Magic in 2010. In fact he is there second best player according to the wins he is contributing and his PER is 21.63, which puts him in the top 10 of centers with regular playing time. Frye will remain with the team for the foreseeable future with 4 years left on his contract. However, Frye’s style of play is so much different from Gortat, that he is more likely to play a “stretch 4” for the team, as he likes to do his work from the outside. Lopez is in the last year of his contract and may resign with the Suns after this year. The opportunity is there for Oden to fit in as the back up center and play a little while he builds up his health and his confidence in the desert.
Playing time is not the main reason to head south. The warm weather would be a great on the joints and ligaments compared to the cold and damp winters of the northwest. However, the real reason lies with the Suns physical trainers and medical team.
There are two cases that really illustrate this the best. We will not include Steve Nash in this conversation because it is well documented how well he takes care of himself. The first example would be that of Grant Hill. He is 39 years old and has famously recovered from a gruesome ankle injury with a long recovery period. He revitalized a playing career that was all but over in Orlando. He played 200 games out of the 492 possible for the Magic, and only missed 15 for the four years that he has been in Phoenix. The second example is of Shaquille O’Neal. He was with the Suns for just over one season and it was the best period of play that he logged since 2006 with the Heat. While in Miami, his numbers and games that he played were declining, his numbers took a spike in Phoenix. His points per game average went up as well as games he was able to play. In the 08-09 season O’Neal played in 75 games, the most he played since 2000. This level of performance was near the standard of play that he was logging until 04-05 season. In 2009 O’Neal was traded to Cleveland and he was only able to play 53 games. His numbers declined and he was faced with injuries. The progressed while he went to Boston.
Oden should consider the track record of the Suns training staff and utilize their abilities to help his body recover and improve. There will be playing time for him next season for him as a free agent.