NBA Draft: Oden Goes to Portland Trailblazers

The National Basketball Association's draft left fans of the Portland Trailblazers elated with their newest player, Greg Oden, a 7-foot star from Ohio State University. Also, the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics pull off big trades.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The first two picks in last night's NBA draft were two star college freshmen going big time: Ohio State's Greg Oden and Kevin Durant of Texas. But bigger news was made by two of the league's more storied franchises, because on draft night, they pulled off big trades.

Commentator John Feinstein has been following all the action. He joins us now. John, good morning.

JOHN FEINSTEIN: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Okay. The big trades here involving the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks. Who goes where, and why does it matter?

FEINSTEIN: Well, it matters because the Boston Celtics last year were not only one of the - the youngest team in the NBA, but one of the worst, losing 17 games in a row at one point, and they had to get some experience. So they gambled. They traded a good young player, Jeff Green, who they drafted out of Georgetown with the fifth pick, along with a very good guard named Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak, a shooter, to get Ray Allen, one of the great shooters in the NBA, and pair him up with their great scorer Paul Pierce and try to get older and better very quickly.

And this is a team - remember, the Celtics have won 16 championships, the most in NBA history, but none since 1986, 21 years ago, when Len Bias died the day after the NBA draft, and the franchise has never been the same. The Knicks, who've been horrible for years, took a big gamble. They got a guy named Zach Randolph, who's 6'10" and averages 23 points a game, but also has penchant for punching teammates and getting arrested. If he can stay out of trouble, he is a huge addition for them.

And the Portland Trail Blazers, who, as you mentioned, got Greg Oden, also got a very good young player in that trade named Channing Frye. So Portland and Seattle got younger and have a lot of potential now. The Knicks and Celtics got a lot older.

INSKEEP: How does it affect the league when you have teams in New York and Boston both that stink?

FEINSTEIN: Well, obviously, you know, the league wants those franchises to be good. The Knicks are in the largest market. The Celtics are, as I said, the most storied franchise in the history of the NBA with all their championships. So you want those franchises to be a part of the mix in May and June and not just be going and sitting on the sidelines and waiting for the draft in early April.

So if the Knicks and Celtics can get better, it's good for the league. But I think the two teams that really got better last night were Portland and Seattle. They're going to be very young, but a couple of years from now, with all that power in the Western conference, they're going to be part of that mix, I think.

INSKEEP: You know, this is the second year that high school players could not enter the draft, but, of course, college freshmen right there. How does that change the draft?

FEINSTEIN: I think it changed it a lot, because when Greg Oden and Kevin Durant walked on that stage with Commissioner David Stern, basketball fans knew who they were, knew their games, knew their personalities because, obviously, Oden took Ohio State to the national championship game. Durant won all the player of the year awards with Texas. So it gives them some personality.

The fans have some feeling for them coming into the league. Plus, even with just one year of college ball, Steve, they are much more mature and more experienced people and players coming into the league.

INSKEEP: Now that the draft is over, any big trades coming? Any more big trades?

FEINSTEIN: Well, everybody keeps saying that the Minnesota Timberwolves want to trade Kevin Garnett, and I think you might see - once free agency comes about July 1, when players can sign with other teams - you might see Garnett move. The Kobe Bryant rumors that he's going to be traded from the Lakers, don't believe them. There's no way the Lakers are giving up Kobe Bryant.

INSKEEP: Why not?

FEINSTEIN: Because they can't afford to. For one thing, they would gut their franchise in terms of popularity in L.A., and another team would probably have to give up three good players to get Kobe Bryant - too big a gamble given his personality.

INSKEEP: Price too high for both the giver and the - receiver and the sender.

FEINSTEIN: (unintelligible)

INSKEEP: John, thanks very much.

FEINSTEIN: Exactly right. Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: Comments from John Feinstein. His new book is "Tales from Q School: Inside Golf's Fifth Major."

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