'Rip City' Welcomes Its New No. 1 Player

Associated Press
Saturday, June 30, 2007

Brand-new Trail Blazers center Greg Oden quickly got a feel for life in Portland -- it rained.

The 7-foot center out of Ohio State, wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with his last name, was introduced yesterday 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.

Later in the day, Oden was at the Blazers' practice facility where he received his official No. 52 jersey.

Blazers Coach Nate McMillan said he had his sights set on Oden since watching Ohio State play Florida in the NCAA title game. Although he praised Kevin Durant for his talent, McMillan was sure Oden was the right choice. Durant, a forward out of Texas, went to Seattle with the second pick.

"When I was going to sleep at night and thinking about next season, the guy who kept popping into my head was Greg," McMillan 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 by sending Zach Randolph, Fred Jones and Dan Dickau to the New York Knicks for Channing Frye and Steve Francis.

General Manager Kevin Pritchard envisions developing a Blazers front court with Oden, LaMarcus Aldridge and Frye.

"Rip City is back," said Pritchard, referring to the nickname coined when the Blazers won the NBA championship in 1977. "It's going to be a great ride."

· NO YI IN MILWAUKEE: Yi Jianlian did not travel to Milwaukee yesterday to be formally introduced. He has no plans to visit, either, with responsibilities playing for the Chinese national team starting this weekend in Dallas and then the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

Agent Dan Fegan pushed for the 19-year-old Yi to go to a city with a heavy Asian influence, and General Manager Larry Harris said Fegan was shocked that the Bucks selected the 6-foot-11 Yi with the sixth pick in Thursday night's draft.

Messages left for Fegan at his office and on his cell phone were not returned.

· CLIPPERS WAIVE EWING: The Clippers waived guard Daniel Ewing, and declined to tender a qualifying offer to forward James Singleton, making him an unrestricted free agent tomorrow.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company