The tough road to glory just got a whole lot tougher. While all of the players on Portland's roster knew the road to the playoffs would be arduous, they did not expect their schedule to start as unfortunate as this.
With 15 of their first 22 games on the road, the Blazers young squad will need to adapt early. By this time in November, the partially inexperienced Portland frontcourt must face a line-up of some of the NBA's toughest.
Not only are their early games on the road, but 11 of the first 18 were in the playoffs last season. Teams such as San Antonio, Houston, and New Orleans make the trek down to the Rose City while some road games consist of trips to Detroit, Orlando, and Utah.
The Blazers open their season against the teams that battled each other in last season's Western Conference Finals: Los Angeles and San Antonio. While most believe Portland's roster is poised enough to handle this, many are still unsure of Greg Oden.
Oden will have his hands full against two talented front-lines in Andrew Bynum/Pau Gasol and Tim Duncan/Fabricio Oberto. As if playing against these well-versed NBA players wasn't hard enough, these two games will be nationally televised.
The trials for Portland's young frontcourt don't stop there. Take a look at some of the other post players Oden will be battling in the first month (counting October as part of November) of his rookie season:
• Phoenix Suns: Amare Stoudemire, Shaquille O'Neal
• Utah Jazz: Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur
• Houston Rockets: Luis Scola, Yao Ming
• Orlando Magic: Rashard Lewis, Dwight Howard
• New Orleans: David West, Tyson Chandler
• Minnesota Timberwolves: Kevin Love, Al Jefferson
Those are some tough players to handle, even if the games aren't on the road and/or nationally televised. If Greg Oden and the rest of the Trail Blazers can get through this rough first part of the season, things will be looking good for the rest of the season.
Oden admitted that confidence will be harder to come by now that he has sat out a whole season. With that in mind, he still says that he is looking forward to the Blazers' first game more than anyone else. Even if his confidence is lower than it should be, he still works as hard as he can and plays to the best of his abilities.
Portland's athletic trainer Jay Jenson was very pleased with Oden's first full-contact workout. He says there has been little pain and no swelling in his knee, both great indicators that the rehab was a great success.
At 7'0" tall and 290 lbs., Oden has the size to rule the paint. The upside for Oden is not only his size, but his running ability as well.
If he can utilize this past year where he has refined his post skills, nothing can stop Greg Oden from becoming a franchise center. Remember, this is the guy who became a college All-American with his dominant hand broken. Oden will be ready to face the NBA's best come October.
With the rehab for his knee finally over, all he has to look forward to is tip-off against Andrew Bynum on October 28.
(Information on Greg Oden's knee came from "Big Man's Small Step" by Jason Quick of the Oregonian.)