Greg Oden may literally be the biggest Kevin Garnett fan in the building tonight.
“It’s my first time seeing [him] in person,” the seven-footer Oden said before the game. “Being able to see what he does in real life. You see it on tape all the time. You don’t really get to sit up in the front row and see it.”
Oden, the No. 1 draft pick who had microfracture surgery on his right knee before the season even began, is traveling with the Trailblazers while he rehabilitates. Oden said he still can’t run or jump, but he rides the exercise bike and elliptical machines and also does some swimming.
He said he’d much rather be traveling with the team than rehabbing in Portland.
“[My teammates] keep my spirits up,” said Oden. “They’re all fun to be around. They keep me involved.”
Not being able to play this season was devastating to the big man out of Ohio State who many feel can one day become the league’s best center.
“I was looking forward to playing myself and to see what I can do against this veteran talent out here, and to play against these guys who are greats,” he said. “That I have to wait another year kind of [stinks].”
As far as his rehab, Oden said his knee is getting stronger. He also said he’s gaining muscle, but he wouldn’t divulge how much.
“[The team worries] about it, but I don’t,” said Oden. “I have a different look at it. I say I’m too big when my shirts don’t fit, when I have no room in a shirt like this (dryfit, athletic shirt). They worry about it, so now my goal for this month is just to lose some weight.”
By the looks of it, Oden has added at least 30 pounds onto his 250-pound frame, as listed in the team’s media guide. Oden was wearing glasses and spoke calmly and eloquently to a group of reporters for about 10 minutes. Among the hot topics: Did he ever think he was coming to Boston?
“It would have been nice,” said Oden. “Paul Pierce was already here, and he’s a great player. To have the possibility of playing with somebody like that is always good… I was open to wherever, but there was a lot of talk [about Boston].”
Oden said there was no shot of him returning this season, even if his team goes deep into the playoffs. He said he’s taking the advice of Jason Kidd, who told him not to come back too soon.
He’s not sure what he can bring to an already successful Portland team when he comes back next year.
“I have no idea,” he said. “I hope I can add to it, and the guys can win a couple more games than what they’re winning this year. But when I go out there they’re already going to be a good team. I’m just going to go and play my part, get some rebounds, a couple of dunks. Give me four points.
“It’s pretty exciting for me just knowing I have something to look forward to when I get back.”