Ainge has 'good conversation' with Greg Oden

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Ainge has 'good conversation' with Greg Oden

BOSTON Danny Ainge has made no secret about his focus these days shifting between preparing for the present-day struggles of the Boston Celtics, while planning for the future.

Saturday's visit with former No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden falls into the latter category.

Oden, who has had multiple knee injuries since being taken with the top pick in the 2007 NBA draft, was in town on Saturday to meet with the C's.

"It was just a chance to get to know Greg a little better," Ainge, president of basketball operations, told CSNNE.com on Saturday. "We meet with free agents all the time."

While that may be true, few come with as much uncertainty as Oden who hasn't played since 2009 due to injuries to both knees with each requiring micro-fracture surgery.

That said, it hasn't slowed down the number of teams - the C's included - that have expressed interest in adding the 7-foot-1 center to their roster.

But all teams interested know that his availability will not be until the 2013-2014 season, and even that isn't a given.

For Ainge, Saturday wasn't so much about Oden the basketball player, but rather Oden the player and whether he could be the type of player that could fit in with the Celtics culture.

"It was a good conversation," said Ainge, who added that no contract offer was made to Oden. "When he has been healthy, he has been a good player in our league. Like I said, this was just a chance for us to get to know him better. That's all."

With no shot of Oden helping address their most immediate need - more size - there's still a definite need for the Celtics to add a big man for next season.

Kevin Garnett and Fab Melo are the only centers under contract for the 2013-2014 season. And with Garnett likely to give some thought to retirement this summer, the Celtics will surely look to add at least one center during the offseason.

And while it's way too early to say Oden is the guy, the C's are at the very least in the mix for his services.

Before an Ohio State basketball game last month, the former Buckeye All-American told the Associated Press that he was rehabbing while taking classes in Columbus, Ohio.

"I don't know when, but I'm taking this year off. I'll play next year," he told the Associated Press.

There have been multiple reports indicating that Oden was eyeing a return to Cleveland or Miami.

However, he said he's not leaning towards any one team in particular right now.

"Right now I'm not worrying about where," Oden told The AP. "I'm only worried about my knee."

Oden spent his first five NBA seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers who selected him with the No. 1 overall pick and in doing so, passed on perennial all-star Kevin Durant.

Injuries limited Oden to just 82 games over five seasons before the Blazers waived him in March. With Portland, Oden averaged 9.2 points and 7.3 rebounds in addition to 1.4 blocks per game.

His injury-prone professional career came on the heels of an impressive year at Ohio State, his lone season as a Buckeye. Oden was instrumental in leading the Buckeyes to the 2007 NCAA Final Four.

NBA Question of the Day: Who will be the MVP?

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NBA Question of the Day: Who will be the MVP?

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From now until training camps open, we'll be asking questions about the NBA and the upcoming season. Today: Who will be the NBA MVP?

BOSTON – It’ll be months before we have a feel for who the best players in the NBA will be this season.
 
But it’s never too soon to start looking at potential NBA candidates, is it?

This year’s MVP race will have plenty of contenders of course, some being familiar faces while there’s likely to be at least one or two who emerge as the season progresses.
 
Here’s a look at five players who should emerge as league MVP candidates this season:
 

5. Damian Lillard, Portland
 
Only 26 years old, the former rookie of the year award winner has been selected to a pair of All-Star games. But that’s not what will make him an MVP candidate this season. He plays for the Blazers, a team whose rebuild following LaMarcus Aldridge’s departure to San Antonio, has taken off quicker than expected.
 
Expectations were extremely low for a Portland team that shocked the NBA world and finished with the fifth-best record in the West and advanced to the second round last season.
 
Terry Stotts emerged as one of the league’s better coaches and guard C.J. McCollum garnered the league’s Most Improved Player award.
 
But the engine that makes the Blazers go is Lillard.
 
The 6-foot-2 guard’s ability to score from the perimeter, off the dribble and all points on the floor, makes him an extremely difficult cover.
 
And while the addition of ex-Celtic Evan Turner will help take some of the playmaking pressure off Lillard, this is still his team and will go only as far as he can lead them.
 

4. LeBron James, Cleveland
 
As we saw in Cleveland’s run towards the franchise’s first NBA title last season, James can become the most dominant player at both ends of the floor when the game matters most. And while those qualities will certainly make him one of the best in the game, James isn’t likely to be as dominant as we’ve seen in past years.
 
And the reason can be summed up in two words: Kyrie Irving.
 
Irving really had a coming out of sorts in the NBA Finals when he outplayed two-time league MVP Stephen Curry which was one of the biggest reasons for Cleveland’s championship aspirations coming to fruition.
 
And let’s face it.
 
James can win this award every year and those who vote for him would have plenty of legitimate reasons to do so.
 
But this season, James will likely be sharing more of the limelight than ever with Irving who may be called upon to pick up more of the offensive slack depending on how things play out with free agent J.R. Smith.
 

3. Stephen Curry, Golden State
 
As the reigning league MVP each of the past two seasons, it will be difficult for Curry to do enough to garner a 3-peat.
 
When he won his first MVP award, Golden State was poised to win its first NBA title in 40 years. And last season’s MVP hardware came at the tail-end of an unprecedented season in which Golden State became the gold standard for regular season success with 73 wins.

But this regular season will be one in which Curry’s numbers are likely to take a dip with the arrival of Kevin Durant.

Still, Curry will continue to be the player most of the league’s shooting guards are measured against and far more often than not, fall short in their efforts to be as good as Curry.
 
The addition of Durant will certainly shift some of the immense on-the-floor attention Curry usually gets, which should make for an easier time for Curry.
 
But here’s the thing.
 
Just like opponents will be focusing more attention towards Durant, the same holds true for the media and fans which means Curry may in fact become a more efficient player this year with fewer folks actually recognizing it.
 

2. Paul George, Indiana
 
With a year back in the game following a horrific knee injury, Paul George is poised to re-enter the league MVP race with a vengeance.
 
The 6-9 George comes into this season with a number of factors working out in his favor to at least give his candidacy a legitimate shot of getting started.
 
For starters, he’s as healthy as he has been in years. In the past few years, that has been one of the biggest factors that has kept him from being in the league MVP conversation. Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird has assembled a talented group whose collective strengths work well with what George brings to the game.
 
And speaking of the Pacers, those additions along with George’s ability should lift Indiana into being among the top five or six teams in the East. The closer to the top they finish, the better George’s chances become.
 

1. Kevin Durant, Golden State

Even though Durant has joined a Golden State team that has been to the NBA Finals each of the past two seasons, he will come in and immediately become the alpha male of this team.

Durant probably won't wind up winning a fifth scoring title, but he will still be among the leagues’ top scorers and lead the Warriors offensively.
 
And while the success of Golden State will hinge heavily on the contributions of many, their regular season success will be credited in large part to the addition of Durant which can only enhance his chances of winning league MVP for a second time in his career.
 
He will be the first to tell you that his focus going into this season has absolutely nothing to do with being the NBA’s MVP.
 
And I believe him.
 
Durant signed with Golden State to win a championship; it’s that simple.
 
And in doing so, he bypassed the comfort of staying with Oklahoma City or penning a new narrative in his basketball journey by joining a team trending towards a championship but not quite there yet.
 
But for him to win a championship, it would mean continuing to be a dominant force while meshing his skills with an even more talented group of teammates.
 
For Durant to put up numbers similar to those he has in the past AND win more games towards a title, will be more than enough to assert his place among the game’s top players.
 
It’s what you would expect from the MVP.