PORTLAND, Ore. - Greg Oden admitted he was out of breath after his workout yesterday for the Portland Trail Blazers. By no means was the 7-foot draft prospect coasting on his reputation.
"Really, I'm trying to sell them on me, not the other way around," the forward from Ohio State said after a vigorous solo workout.
The Portland Trail Blazers have the No. 1 selection in the June 28 draft. Oden figures to be one of the top picks along with Kevin Durant, a forward out of Texas, who is scheduled to visit the Blazers tomorrow.
"All I can do is be me," Oden said.
A couple dozen fans stood across the street from the Trail Blazers practice facility south of Portland hoping to catch a glimpse of the big man. The media turned out in droves.
Team owner Paul Allen, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, sat and watched the workout with general manager Kevin Pritchard. Several players, including Zach Randolph, rookie of the year Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge also looked on.
"What came out is that he's a really good person who cared about how he did in the workout," Pritchard said. "He's a unique talent. To have an opportunity to get a kid like this is a great opportunity for this organization."
Said Allen: "Seeing Greg in person, it's not just his size, it's his amazing athleticism. You can see the potential there."
Oden was scheduled to meet with team doctors later yesterday.
After getting a late start in his freshman year at Ohio State because of a wrist injury, Oden led the Buckeyes in scoring (15.7) and rebounding (9.6) and topped the Big Ten in shooting percentage (.616).
The Buckeyes went 35-4 and won the Big Ten's regular-season and tournament titles before advancing to their first national championship game since 1962, where they lost to two-time champion Florida. In the championship game, Oden had 25 points and 12 rebounds.
After his workout with Portland, Oden was asked whether he likened himself more to Shaquille O'Neal or Bill Russell. Without hesitation he answered, "Russell."
"Ten fingers, 11 rings," he explained.
Both funny and personable, the 19-year-old smiled broadly after jokingly telling reporters that he'd cry if he wasn't the top pick in the draft.
Oden says he and Durant are pals and trade text messages.
"We're pretty cool," he said. "This year we realized we were going to be connected for a long time."
Oden said he felt immediately welcome in Portland. Roy and Aldridge met Oden and his mother at the airport.
Fellow Ohio State freshman Mike Conley Jr. has also declared himself eligible for the draft. Oden is represented by Conley's father, Mike Conley Sr., who won the Olympic gold medal in the triple jump at the 1992 Games in Barcelona.
Pritchard said the organization is keeping an open mind when it comes to its selection. None of the Blazers' brass was indicating which way the team might be leaning.
"This gives us an incredible opportunity to improve our franchise for the next decade, so you have to be extremely careful," Allen said. "But it's a lot of fun."
MINNEAPOLIS - As far as Minnesota Timberwolves basketball boss Kevin McHale is concerned, any trade talk involving Kevin Garnett so far has been just that - talk.
"Who knows what's going to happen?" McHale said a day after the Wolves worked out college stars Jeff Green and Al Horford in preparation for next week's draft. "But we're not out there actively shopping Kevin Garnett around the NBA. I can tell you that much."
McHale was pressed on the topic a day after Danny Ainge told the Boston Herald that he has talked to McHale about Garnett.
But McHale dismissed that news as the typical chatter that happens between team executives in the days leading up to the NBA draft.
"At this time of year, all the teams are talking to each other," McHale said.
Garnett can opt out of his contract after next season, meaning the Timberwolves run the risk of losing him without compensation if they don't trade him before then and he tires of not playing on a competitive team. That has ramped up speculation that he could be on the move, and the possible destinations - many of them completely baseless and unsourced - are popping up all over the place as they always do this time of year.
One thing that appears to be different this offseason is McHale's acknowledgment of conversations involving his star player.44.97903 -93.26493