Thursday, December 3, 2009

Greg Oden: To React or Not To React

Unfortunately, the two things Greg Oden is most synonymous for around the rest of the league are micro-fracture surgery and fouls. Greg has already proven he can work his way back into form from the knee surgery which kept him out the entire 07-08 season, but getting into foul trouble early and often is still lingering around him and causing him too much time on the bench. Currently, Oden is tied with Sacramento's Jason Thompson for the league lead in fouls per game at 4.2., but Thompson plays 5 more minutes per game and his fouls per 48 minutes is at 5.8, while Greg's is sky high at 8.
Although G.O. has made a more conscious effort to slide his feet when guards are penetrating the middle, in hopes of altering the shot from behind, it still seems like he is getting more than his fair share of "questionable/poor" fouls called against him. Case and point was Tuesday night's game against Miami where Greg picked up 2 quick fouls within 3 minutes of tip-off. One was a moving screen, which looked harmless from my vantage point, while the other was a ludicrous loose ball foul that was the result of battling with Jermaine O'Neal, where the replayed showed O'Neal was actually the one doing the holding. These are the types of fouls that are called strictly on reputation and really hinder this team. Oden has become such an integral part of this team with his ability to score down low and protect the paint, that when he comes out, its as big a blow if Brandon or LaMarcus would've gotten into foul trouble.
All throughout his short NBA career, fans have witnessed Greg respectfully disagree with most of his fouls by simply walking away without saying a word. Normally, as a coach, this is the exact behavior you strive to get from your players. You want them to worry about the game and let the coach handle the officials. The question now becomes, does Greg start to show some emotion towards the referees in hopes of gaining some respect? This strategy certainly worked for Brandon Roy during last season, where he would ride the officials if he felt he wasn't getting the calls as he was driving to the basket. Harping on the refs is a very fine line, because you could gain a reputation of constantly criticizing and whining about calls, like our old buddy Rasheed Wallace, and end up not only getting reputation foul calls but getting quick technical fouls called as well.
If Greg decides to talk to the officials a little bit more after questionable calls, fine, but do not make your frustrations public and noticeable. If there is one thing the NBA and referees will not stand for, it is public criticism. NBA superstar Dwight Howard was fined $15,000 for this blog post about fouling out in only 16 minutes of action. Dwight has already been T'ed up 5 times this year and averages only .4 less fouls per game than Greg. Its not like Howard is playing 40+ minutes a night either, only 8 more than Greg, so maybe getting in the official's ear isn't the best method of stopping the reputation calls.
Personally, I think fighting through the calls and simply upping his performance and production will slowly but surely reduce the amount of iffy calls. Players like Duncan, Garnett, and Shaq are able to get away with more than most, but that is because they are elite and have a respectability about their game. I'm not saying Greg is at that level yet or will ever arrive there, but it is known that the better you are, the more likely you will receive a call in question. I think Greg should pick and choose his spots to get angry or show emotion, just to let the referees know he won't just take this lying down but to also keep being respectable towards the authorities with whistles.

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