An E-Conversation With…John Canzano
Portland Oregonian columnist John Canzano is one of my favorite columnists because he's fearless with his prose. You can read him here. Check back for similar chats with other writers around the country throughout the two weeks.
Let's start. What can I expect from Greg Oden this year?
Oden wants very badly to be good. I think you can expect that he's going to work hard, and be a bigger impact on the defensive end of the floor than the offensive end. The Blazers won't need him to score. Even with the injury, he feels like the early leading candidate for Rookie of the Year. You can't get anyone inside the Trail Blazers organization to say this publicly, but they love his workouts. The whisper is that management believes he will be even better than they thought he'd be when they drafted him.
Okay, so if Oden turns out to be better than management expected, where should we project the Blazers this season?
Brandon Roy is a star. LaMarcus Aldridge might end up being the best player picked in the 2006 draft. If Oden is anything close to what he's supposed to be, the Blazers are right there fighting for the 7-8 spots in the West. The biggest loss this summer was James Jones, who left for a sweeter situation in Miami. His locker room presence will be missed. I wonder if the Blazers biggest obstacle will be its immaturity. And Oden is at the center of that. He's not as mature as the Blazers will have you believe. It may be boredom, or that he's young, or that he was sitting out with an injury, but he needs to grow and stay healthy if the Blazers are going to maximize things. They're a playoff team... maybe a 7 or 8 seed if everything goes right.
Still, even on his worst day, I'd imagine Oden is not exactly Zach Randolph. Have the Blazers won back the fans they lost from employing so many malcontents?
The best asset the Blazers had all along was a fan base that wanted nothing more than to believe in the NBA team again. I'll maintain that the fans, not ownership, is what forced changes in Portland. The franchise didn't just have malcontents on the floor, it had bad actors in the front office. And fans stayed away until all that changed. The franchise still has the league's longest running lottery streak, but it also has some good traction, and the fan base is mostly back on board. It was a hell of a sociological experiment Paul Allen put on. There are still some holdovers who want to see a winning record, but I think after yellow Hummers, and airport metal detectors, and pit bulls, and league records for technical fouls, among other things, people in Portland are just looking for a competitive team that they feel good about supporting. It has that now.
Nice. Gaze into your crystal ball. What will be the three biggest sports stories in Oregon for the second half of the year?
I think Oregon is going to flirt with another BCS berth in football. Offensive coordinator Chip Kelly then becomes America's sweetheart as far as coaching candidates go. I wonder what Oregon would promise Kelly to stay in Eugene. Also, Darius Miles bid to play in the NBA again has huge salary cap implications for the Blazers and there's such a deep-seated interest in him that his story stays on the radar. And while I think Oden is a huge story, I'm not sure that [Nike head] Phil Knight and his influence in Eugene doesn't continue to be polarizing considering the new arena is opening there.
Never a dull moment with it involves Knight moves in your part of the world. Let's finish up with this: Give me the three blogs you can't live without.
I'm not a huge blog addict but I read them. I like Sports By Brooks because we all take ourselves so damned serious all the time and I think its nice to laugh. I read The Big Lead, and Deadspin but I think some of the best bloggers are guys working beats at daily papers. Eric Prisbell blogs for the Washington Post, Pete Thamel blogs for the New York Times and John Ryan does a great blog for the San Jose Mercury News. The people in the trenches have so much more to say than we can get into newsprint anymore.
An E-Conversation With…John Canzano