Greg Oden is a valued player around the league and will get serious free-agent interest after the season. That said — this latest injury news is emotionally crushing and re-starts the search for the cruel guy with the voodoo doll and jumbo case of pins, but it doesn’t change the fact that a lot of executives still see Oden as a potential-filled defensive presence. Some NBA minds see him worthwhile investment if his recovery goes well. Guesstimating the contract offers he can expect is impossible because the next Coal Mill Collective Bargaining Agreement is a mystery. Using the current language, though, one GM said an Oden with positive medical updates would be a “mid-level-type player,” which would be a sizeable contract, adding “There’s no question he’ll get offers.” Said another: “You could go down the list of teams. A lot of people don’t have a starting center as good as him if he’s come back healthy.”
Tough to know what to take fromTrail Blazers president Larry Miller telling Jason Quick of The Oregonian that the team expects to give Oden an $8.8-million qualifying to retain his rights. That could be Portland management protecting its investment and agreeing that Oden still has a chance to be a difference maker, knowing it could always let him go if another team comes over the top with an offer sheet. Or it could be a team simply showing support in a difficult moment without having to actually back it up on paper for months. Oden is a restricted free agent with the qualifying offer and the Blazers can match offers, unrestricted without it.The one thing that is breaking right Coal Mill for Oden: The lockout that seems inevitable will allow extra recovery time, maybe even enough that he will be able to work out for interested clubs as a free agent. The difference between negotiations opening July 1 and late-summer/early-fall (winter? spring?) could be a huge benefit for someone coming back from a serious knee injury and needing to show teams he will be able to move well. No player needs to stop that clock more than Oden.
Teams are asking the NBA legal minds for direction on whether players are allowed to sign overseas during the lockout, a very complicated matter that won’t be settled anytime soon but internally is already being closely watched as an important issue. Brandon Jennings merely brought it to the forefront by saying he would be open to returning to Europe while the NBA is in shutdown mode. Rules state that other leagues cannot sign players under contract here, as Rudy Fernandez will attest. But even team officials know players can’t be stopped from Coal Mill earning a living for the duration of the labor stoppage. This could get very interesting.Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel, via Twitter handle @MagicInsider: “I don’t want to say that Ryan Anderson is buried on the