CLEVELAND: Greg Oden had a pretty good view of the Cavaliers’ game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday. Maybe, just maybe, he’ll have an even better seat at Quicken Loans Arena next season.
Oden attended the Cavs’ game Friday as a guest of Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley Jr., his best friend since childhood — yet wound up in Cavs owner Dan Gilbert’s baseline seats adjacent the Cavs’ bench.
Gilbert wasn’t in attendance Friday, so arena personnel invited Oden to move down from his original seats five rows behind the Cavs’ bench. It was an intriguing scene, given the negotiations between the Cavs and Oden’s agent — who also happens to be Conley’s father.
Oden was shown on the video board twice during the game as fans cheered. He said he is still interested in playing for the Cavs despite not signing a contract yet.
“I live in Ohio. It’s home now,” he said. “They have a great organization and I really do think they’re up and coming.”
Oden was spotted cheering for the Cavs during a fourth-quarter comeback.
The Cavs are believed to have offered Oden a two-year deal that would begin this season and include a team option for a third year, but Oden hasn’t signed. Now it’s looking like he won’t sign a deal until this summer, when more teams will have cap space and the demand could increase.
“Obviously the longer it goes, the more it looks like that” he won’t sign until summer, Mike Conley Sr. said Friday.
The game against the Grizzlies was Oden’s first Cavs game as a casual fan. The former Ohio State star lives in Columbus again and said the organization’s partnership with the Cleveland Clinic will be a factor in his decision.
“With my process, one of the top two things I have to think about is the medical staff and how is it going to help me,” Oden said. “I want to play and I want to play for some time. Not just come in and see what happens. I want to be able to have a career.”
Asked what his expectations are once he returns to the NBA, Oden paused for a moment.
“I hope I can contribute to a good team,” Oden said. “I definitely think I’m that type of player, but I have to get on the court.”
Oden hasn’t played in an NBA game since Dec. 5, 2009. He has endured three microfracture surgeries on his knees, including two on his left knee.
Conley Jr. said Oden’s spirits are at an all-time high and conceded all of the injuries with the Portland Trail Blazers left him depressed.
“Now he’s loving life. He’s loving the game, he watches all the games and texts me when I have good and bad games,” Conley Jr. said. “He loves Cleveland, loves the state of Ohio. He lives in Columbus and he’d like to be as close to home as possible, so what better place than Cleveland? I think that’d be a great spot for him. Hopefully something will work out.”
Two days after saying his knee wouldn’t be healthy unless he sat the rest of the season, Kyrie Irving said Friday his knee is fine.
“I’m not getting shut down,” Irving said. “Coach Scott is not in contemplation of shutting me down. It’s funny what the Internet can do for people.”
Irving caused a stir even with his coach. Byron Scott said Thursday Irving’s admission the knee was still bothering him got his attention, but after conferring with trainer Max Benton on Friday morning, Scott said he doesn’t think the knee is an issue.
Scott joked that Mo Speights appeared at Cleveland Clinic Courts for shootaround Friday morning earlier than he has ever arrived — before 9 a.m. — in preparing to face his old team. He thought Wayne Ellington’s even-keeled approach would allow him to fare just fine in facing the Grizzlies, who traded Ellington and Speights to the Cavs in a cost-cutting move in late January. He wasn’t so sure about Speights.
“Wayne, I think he’ll be fine. Mo? I don’t have a clue,” Scott said. “Mo’s a different story. It could be one of those 18 [points] and 12 boards, or it could be a 7 and 3 night. It could be interesting.”
Speights wasn’t upset with his former team, but indicated he was unhappy with the front office for a salary dump.
“It wasn’t the team, it was all the front office. It was a money move,” Speights said. “That’s why I still have love for the Grizzlies fans and the Grizzlies organization. It was the front office, so you can’t fault the whole team or the coaches, none of that.”
Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins was initially critical of the deals, including trading away leading scorer Rudy Gay, but now he seems pleased with the moves.
“We traded one player from our core,” Hollins said. “The other players we traded were all players we brought in to fill in and contribute to our core. We just brought in some different players who fit in.”
Hollins said he wasn’t surprised by the success of Ellington and Speights with the Cavs because they’re more of a perimeter team, whereas the Grizzlies play from the inside out. Then Hollins slipped in that part of the reason they couldn’t get consistent minutes with the Grizzles was because they weren’t good defenders.
Scott has said one of the reasons he likes Ellington so much was the defensive system from which he came.
“We have a little bit more defensively dominated mind-set,” Hollins said. “When they don’t do what they’re supposed to do, they’re sitting over there next to me. They were over there a lot.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com.