Greg Oden and his agent, Indianapolis-based Mike Conley Sr., might want to consider taking a page from the playbook of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning—and zip it.
Manning and his agent, Tom Condon, recently said Manning wouldn’t be discussing a new contract with the Colts because he wants to focus on this season. And he certainly won't be talking to the press about his contract, which expires at the end of this season.
That sort of tact plays well with everyone involved. It’s the sort of thing that earns a player admiration and loyalty from teammates and esteem from fans. Manning’s the best quarterback in team history—possibly league history—so he’s going to get a fat contract.
But Manning’s take on this also will further endear him to Colts owner Jim Irsay, who already has promised to make Manning the league’s highest paid player.
Manning’s business playbook has lots of smart calls and audibles.
Then there’s Oden and Conley. Neither of them should be mentioning Oden’s potential free agency or this upcoming off-season. That only shows their relative inexperience in the world of big-time sports business.
It seems like Oden, an Indianapolis native now playing for the Portland Trailblazers, should be focusing on this season—one game at a time.
Oden is no longer the No. 1 pick of the 2007 draft. Instead, he’s a guy who’s played 82 games in the last three NBA seasons. When he was healthy last year, Oden averaged 11.1 points and 8.5 rebounds a game—not exactly all-star numbers.
“If [the Trailblazers] want to give him the money we think he’s worth, he’ll sign,” Conley Sr. told the Indianapolis Star on Wednesday.
I’m not sure what a 7-footer who isn’t healthy enough to play one-third of the games is worth. But here’s what Oden should expect: an NBA-minimum contract laden with enough incentives to fill the back of a three-quarter-ton pickup truck. I know, the NBA isn't big on incentive-laden contracts. It should be.
The deadline for NBA teams to sign players to a contract extension is Monday, and if Conley is holding his breath for an offer, he’ll be turning blue very soon.
The looming NBA lockout and Commissioner David Stern’s efforts to significantly reduce player salaries don’t bode well for Oden.
The Trailblazers will pay $6.8 million for his services this year, the last of his rookie contract. An extension would mean Portland would be required to pay Oden $8.8 million next year. The Blazers are clearly worried about Oden’s health and betting that his value is more likely to go down than up.
For those who have watched Oden since his playing days at Lawrence North High School, it’s sad to admit, but that’s a good bet on Portland’s part.
If Oden doesn’t sign an extension with Portland by Monday, he’ll become a restricted free agent at season’s end. That means Portland can match any incoming offer to retain the big man.
But instead of thinking or talking about something eight months away, Oden might want to ponder something a little more immediate—his next game.