The Portland Trailblazers are enjoying one of their best regular seasons and they are firmly playoff-bound. Everything seems to be clicking for them lately and it’s safe to say that the Greg Oden story, the same one that broke every Blazers fan’s heart not so long ago, is the last thing on people’s minds right now. Still, just because it has been pushed out of the spotlight, the Oden problem won’t go away.
The Trailblazers have not extended Oden’s contract, turning him into the second ever No 1 overall draft pick not to receive the almost compulsory extension (the first one was Kwame Brown). What this translates to is the following.
After the last game of the 2011 NBA finals ends, the Portland front office can turn its attention to a truly daunting dilemma: will the organization continue holding on to Oden, or will it cut him loose to give both him and the team the chance to start over? If they do envision a future in which Oden’s fate continues to intertwine with that of the Blazers, they will have till the 30th of June to make an $8.8 million offer to him, which would make him a restricted free agent. Restricted free agency would mean that teams would be able to make offers to him, but the Blazers would be in a position to match that offer and keep him.
If they decide not to make that $8.8 million offer, Oden’s NBA future with the team will fall under the shadow of a huge question mark. That would leave him an unrestricted free agent, which means he would be free to go. The Blazers maintain that they do intend to make that offer, and that as long as Oden’s rehabilitation sees progress, they want to see him in the fold. The question here is how happy he really is in Portland and whether he will in fact return to a shape that would make keeping him a sound decision on the part of the team.