Greg Oden Revives Comeback Possibility By Saying “I’ll Play Next Year”

Depending on the person there may be more to it than this, but I tend to count Greg Oden news by its five stages: Surprise, the weighing of pros and cons, realizing you were probably too optimistic, earnestly seeing how he would fit, and disappointment. After news broke several teams were monitoring his progress, I gave two reasons each why his comeback could be good, or could be more of the same disappointment for the former No. 1 pick. It doesn’t take long for Stage 3 to kick in after that, which leads to Stage Four, a transition aided with a quote Oden said yesterday to the AP before watching Ohio State beat Wisconsin: “I don’t know when, but I’m taking this year off. I’ll play next year.”

That Associated Press story started because a source said the Cleveland Cavaliers are keen suitors who may hold the upper hand — whatever that means at this stage of his rehabilitation and readiness to sign. Here’s what makes this news interesting at all: Oden seems willing to make a comeback. All along the stories had signaled teams were interested but Oden wasn’t heard from, nor his agent, Mike Conley. Both the AP and Cleveland Plain Dealer talked with Oden on Tuesday in Columbus, though, and the center’s quotes, while cautious, make a comeback seem imminent, not iffy. He told the Plain Dealer:

Asked if he was playing at all, Oden said, “I’m just getting my knee ready so when things do happen I’ll be ready to play next year.

“I’m still in the rehab process, but I’m it taking slow. I could possibly be playing at this point, but I’ve done that before and I got injured before, so I’d rather take everything I am doing slow. Right now I’m just doing strength stuff with my knees.”

He said he was confident he would return to the NBA.

“I like how my knee is going, the way it’s going,” he said. “I still like the time I’m taking, just to make sure nothing happens. You can’t predict the future. But if it doesn’t happen, I’m happy.”

Among teams mentioned as interested in Oden, the Celtics and Heat have their own issues with a quality big man off the bench — just look at how Miami was reported late Tuesday to be close to signing Jarvis Varnado for the rest of the season. The Cavaliers are no different, with nine players under contract for 2013-14, not including big man Mareesse Speights, who has a player option. Of those nine, only Anderson Varejao and Tyler Zeller play his position and each likely could start next season. Who comes off the bench? Maybe Oden. Maybe — let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Reading Oden’s reaction, it sounds like he isn’t thinking much beyond his knee’s health even as he signals he’s definitely willing to make a comeback.

What do you think?

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