NEW YORK – Greg Oden beat Kevin Durant in the race to be the No. 1 pick. Oden is already looking ahead to winning the race for rings. The Portland Trail Blazers ended months of debate Thursday night when they chose the Ohio State center over fellow college freshman Durant with the top pick in a highly anticipated NBA draft.
"I know we're going to be connected for a long time. Kevin Durant, Greg Oden," Oden said.
"He's a really, really good player. I'm a pretty decent player. So I hope things work out. I would love to get way more championships than him."
Oden seems in better position, at least to start. While he's already looking ahead to who he is playing with, Durant was left to think about who he'll be without.
The SuperSonics traded All-Star Ray Allen, their leading scorer, to Boston on Thursday. And they still face the possibility of losing Rashard Lewis to free agency.
"Now Ray is gone and I think Rashard is a free agent," Durant said. "I'd love to get him back, he's a great player and one of my idols as well, and now he's my teammate — well, I hope he's my teammate. If he's there, it's going to be a plus."
The drafting of Durant was a boost to Seattle fans who earlier had booed the trade of Allen. Down in Portland, there was nothing but cheers.
Franchise centers are hard to find, and Portland fans think they got one.
"I was on the phone with the radio station back in Portland," Oden said. "They said they stomped the floor like they won the NBA championship once they called my name."
Fans rushed the court at the Rose Garden, where a perennial playoff team has fallen on hard times after some worse behavior. But the Blazers got Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy last year and got an early start on having next season's winner when they grabbed Oden to play alongside LaMarcus Aldridge.
"They did have a bad (reputation), but I think Brandon and LaMarcus kind of turned that around," Oden said. "I hope that I can come and just push that along some more."
Even with Durant, feelings weren't quite the same in Seattle.
Moments after he was picked, Durant saw on TV that the SuperSonics had traded Allen. Just a day earlier, he had talked of not having to be a savior since Seattle had Allen.
And he's not changing his mind now.
"Not at all, not at all," Durant said. "When you play since you were 8 or 9 years old, you know the game is not a one-man sport. I'm far from being a savior."
Joining Durant to help the Sonics rebuild is Georgetown's Jeff Green, taken by Boston with the No. 5 pick and heading to Seattle along with Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West. Durant knows Green from growing up in the Washington, D.C. area.
"I know Jeff pretty well, on a D.C. Blue Devils team, we gained a friendship from there," Durant said. "He's a great player, and I can't wait to play with him."
Portland also made a deal, clearing room in the middle for Oden by trading Zach Randolph to New York. The Blazers also sent Fred Jones and Dan Dickau to the Knicks for Steve Francis and Channing Frye.
The only other trade involving an NBA player came when Golden State sent Jason Richardson and the rights to Jermareo Davidson, the No. 36 pick, to Charlotte for Brandan Wright, taken at No. 8 by the Bobcats.
The rest of the trades, most in the second round, involved picks or cash.
The Atlanta Hawks used the No. 3 pick, their first of two in the lottery on Al Horford, who saluted the pro-Florida crowd with the Gator chomp. The two-time defending NCAA champions became the first school with three players selected in the top 10 of the same draft.
They made it when Corey Brewer went to Minnesota at No. 7 and Joakim Noah — donning a brown bow tie and getting a huge reaction from his hometown crowd — was taken by Chicago two picks later.
"This is an unbelievable experience" Horford said. "Winning two national championships. Moving up to the next level is unreal."
Two more Gators went in the second round: Chris Richard at No. 41 to Minnesota and Taurean Green by Portland at No. 52. The five players equaled the second-most for one school in a draft. UNLV had six in 1977 — though that came in four rounds.
The Hawks passed on Michael Conley Jr., even though they still need a point guard after passing on Chris Paul and Deron Williams two years ago. The Memphis Grizzlies then grabbed Conley, Oden's teammate since their junior high days and the third freshman in the top four picks.
Atlanta finally grabbed that point guard by taking Acie Law at No. 11 — the first college senior taken.
"Freshmen are very, very talented," Law said. "I think in the draft, it's all about position and what a team needs, and you see some great, great players in this draft. I'm happy with the team that I went to and just happy to get to Atlanta and help turn that franchise around."
The Milwaukee Bucks took a chance at No. 6 on the draft's mystery player, Chinese forward Yi Jianlian. Though Yi was getting plenty of attention — half of the record 60 international media members were from China — he came with plenty of question marks. He hasn't played against top competition in the Chinese leagues, and he is rumored to be older than the 19 he is listed.
Milwaukee also ignored concerns that Yi only wanted to play in a major market with a large Asian population. He didn't even work out for the Bucks.
"It's a surprise to me as well, because when I was in China, Milwaukee didn't come to watch me play or work out," Yi said through a translator. "Myself, I'm not really familiar with the city, but I'm happy with the team and I'm happy to play in the NBA."
Ohio State's Daequan Cook went to Philadelphia at No. 21, giving both national championship-game teams three players in the first round. His rights later were sent to Miami for the rights to Jason Smith of Colorado State, taken by the Heat with the 20th pick.
Thaddeus Young (Philadelphia, No. 12) and Javaris Crittenton (Los Angeles Lakers, No. 19) gave Georgia Tech two first-rounders. Sean Williams (No. 17, New Jersey) and Jared Dudley (No. 22, Charlotte) did the same for Boston College — though Williams was kicked off the team last season for rules violations.
The second round included some players with famous relatives. The Lakers used the No. 48 pick on Marc Gasol, the younger brother of Grizzlies star Pau Gasol. Phoenix took D.J. Strawberry at No. 59, bringing chants of "Dar-ryl! Dar-ryl" from the crowd who remember his father playing in New York for the Mets and Yankees