|Return to Rip City? Blazers introduce Oden to fans|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 29 June 2007 11:30|
The 7-foot center out of Ohio State, wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with his last name, was introduced Friday to Blazers fans at a lunchtime rally, some 16 hours after the team took him with the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.
``I'm loving it here, and I'm going to have a smile on my face for a long time to come,'' Oden said.
A few thousand fans chanted Oden's name when he arrived at downtown's Pioneer Courthouse Square on the city's light-rail system. Oden acknowledged the cheers by bowing to the crowd.
``This is crazier than New York,'' said Oden, accompanied to Portland by his parents, brother and girlfriend.
After taking Oden with the top pick, the Blazers made headlines on draft night by sending forward Zach Randolph, Fred Jones and Dan Dickau to the New York Knicks for Channing Frye and Steve Francis.
General manager Kevin Pritchard envisioned a Blazers front court with Oden, LaMarcus Aldridge and Frye.
``It's going to be a great ride,'' Pritchard said at the rally.
The infusion of young talent has Portland fans excited. Even before the Blazers selected Oden, the team had sold more than 3,500 season tickets. Some 6,000 fans went to the Rose Garden on draft night and rushed the court in celebration when Oden's name was announced.
Nicknamed the Jail Blazers years ago because of player misconduct, the team began a transformation last year when the Blazers got Aldridge, Brandon Roy and Sergio Rodriguez on a busy draft day.
Roy went on to be the NBA's Rookie of the Year. Might Oden be next?
``Rip City is back,'' said Pritchard, referring to the term coined when the Blazers won the national championship in 1977.