Last season, everyone wanted to dunk on Greg Oden. Some were successful, some weren’t, but at least one guys from every team tried. Rumor was that a few teams had even put out bounties on Oden’s head, with cash money going to those who managed to score a highlight on the big fella’.
Opposing players are still going at and dunking on Oden. It’s what happens when you spend the majority of your defensive minutes in the paint. But now, with confidence that seems to grow by the day, Oden is able to come back just as strong on the offensive end.
Case in point: At the 7:39 mark in the second quarter, Chicago’s Joakim Noah was on the receiving end of a fastbreak assist from Jannero Pargo that resulted in a thunderous dunk over Oden’s outstretched arms. The Bulls’ bench goes nuts.
“That hurt,” said Oden. “It was a tough play. He got me. There's really nothing I can really say other than he got me.”
If that play had happened last season, maybe Oden doesn’t respond. Maybe he wouldn’t have been confidence enough in himself or his game to come down and take it to Noah just as hard as he took it to him. But this season, Oden has been more than up to the challenge. On the ensuing play, GO took Noah straight to the post and finished from 10 feet.
“I definitely wanted to come back at him,” said Oden. “I scored the basket, but it definitely wasn't as strong as his. I think I ended up getting a little dunk later on in the game. We won the game so that's really all that matters.”
And that wasn’t the only time Oden answered a Noah make. On the four possessions that Noah scored, Oden answered back with a bucket of his own on the next play three times.
We were doing pretty well inside tonight offensively, so I think I do have a little more confidence with going back at guys,” said Oden. “When they come at me I need to come back and answer the challenge.”
Finishing with 24 points and 12 rebounds to Noah’s 7 and 8, it’s safe to say that on this night, Oden was more than up to the challenge.