PORTLAND, Ore. — The Rose Garden fans got their first regular-season look at center Greg Oden, and he did not disappoint.
The crowd was on its feet when Oden entered the game against the Chicago Bulls with under five minutes left in the first quarter.
His “Thank You” was a two-handed dunk off a pass from Steve Blake moments later.
The Blazers went on to win 116-74. Oden finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds in 17 minutes.
In six games this season — he played 13 minutes in the season opener against the Los Angeles Lakers but didn’t score and sprained his ankle — Oden is averaging 10 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots per game.
That’s plenty to be encouraged by, but Oden is still learning to play in real games with the Blazers — and the Blazers are still learning to play with him.
Nate McMillan’s plan in playing Oden off the bench was to take some of the pressure off him and ease him into more minutes.
Fellow center Joel Przybilla has been doing well in the starting role. He’s averaging 6.4 points and 7.9 minutes. Against the Bulls, he had 14 points and nine rebounds in 23 minutes.
So a decision to move Oden to starter will be taken on a thoughtful, game-by-game basis.
“I’ve always been a fan of Joel’s. And right now, on the defensive end of the floor, he is really setting an example of what we want from (our centers),” McMillan said. “And Greg is able to look at Joel defensively and defend the pick-and-roll, rotate to the ball, and he’s starting to pick that up. And with a combination of the two guys being out there with our group, we should be a better defensive team.”
Oden, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft, did not play last season because of microfracture surgery. His delayed rookie season was derailed for a time after the sprained ankle in the opener.
Wednesday night’s game against the Bulls was Oden’s first at home since the regular season got under way.