Home > Uncategorized > Greg Oden’s Knee to the Groin…

Greg Oden’s Knee to the Groin…

It is such a sad tale. The story of number one pick Greg Oden, perpetually compared to superstar Kevin Durant, perpetually injured. A classy young man, Oden has suffered through his fair share of disappointment in a four year NBA career that has been nothing short of horrendous. With the news yesterday that Oden is once again going to undergo microfracture surgery, he will now miss his second full season. That means that in the first four years of his career, Greg Oden will have played 82 games out of a potential 328.

Three and a half years ago Kevin Pritchard was being hailed as one of the great young GMs in basketball. He had cleared away the flotsam of the Jailblazers era; shedding deadbeats and deadwood, while compiling young assets and draft picks. His team had jumped from 21 wins in 2006, to 32 in 2007 and looked poised to take another step forward the following year. They had rookie of the year Brandon Roy, 21 year old future all-star LaMarcus Aldridge, 10,000 acquired draft picks, and precocious youngsters like Travis Outlaw and Martell Webster. Things in the Rose Garden were looking, well, rosy. All they needed was that final star piece. The piece they ostensibly received on May 22nd, when their 5.3% odds of winning the NBA draft lottery were cashed and they landed the first pick in the draft. Everything seemed set for Portland to have a decade long run of success.

Only, sport is cruel. Everyone now knows that the Blazers selected Greg Oden, while Kevin Durant went 2nd to the Seattle Supersonics. It was a good day for Northwest basketball. Two undeniable top flight talents were coming to the rainy coast. Of course, Durant was only here a year before the Sonics were transplanted to some place called Oklahoma. And Oden? Well, that story isn’t finished writing itself, but right now it looks like the day Pritchard selected him is the day that Portland’s magical run took an irreversible detour.

While Blazer management did their due diligence on Kevin Durant, they, like most (although not all) pundits, believed that Oden was the cornerstone of a future dynasty. He was the next in a long line of distinguished centers who changed the game with their defense: Russell, Kareem, Hakeem, Ewing, Robinson, Mourning. Put him on the floor with Roy and Aldridge and you had the three pieces you needed to compete for a title, for many titles. With those three, all you needed was to flush the roster out with role players and shooters.

It was all set.

Only instead of following in the footsteps of those esteemed centers, Oden is following the path carved by a different breed of center: Bill Walton, Ralph Sampson, Brad Daugherty, and Yao Ming. A group of men who were larger than life and unfortunately, larger than their bodies could handle. You can blame Pritchard for not selecting Durant, but the voices in 2007 who said that Durant was the right pick were few. Plus, when Oden has been on the court, he has shown signs of being that game changing defensive presence. Unfortunately, those moments have become lost in time, like tears in rain.

Four years on, the Blazers remain a solid squad, but that decade of dominance is just a rumor of what might have been had they selected Durant. Pritchard was muscled out, Roy’s knee is grinding bone on bone, and Oden has probably played his final game in The City of Roses. The momentum built in the middle of the decade has been swallowed up by a litany of what ifs: what if the Blazers had picked Chris Paul in 2005, what if they’d bought Phoenix’s 21st pick in 2006 (Rajon Rondo) instead of their 27th pick (Sergio Rodriguez), what if they’d picked Durant…

It is the fickle nature of sport. With Oden now out for another whole season, his career has bottomed out. It’s not over for the big guy, Zydrunas Ilgauskas on the verge or retiring with feet that couldn’t hold his body up, but he managed to convalesce and put together six or seven prosperous years, good years. Still, Ilgauskas’s career is a far cry from the career that could reasonably have been expected of Oden when he was picked first four years ago.

Kevin Pritchard is an excellent executive, who made smart decision after smart decision. One decision went wrong and what he’d been building has crumbled. Kevin Pritchard deserved better. Greg Oden is a solid young man, who has persevered through repeated disappointment with only the slightest trace of truculence. He has been humble, he has worked hard, he has kept out of trouble off the court. Greg Oden deserved better. Portland is a fabulous city, with one of the best fan bases in the NBA. Since their championship in 1977 they have watched as one big man after another couldn’t stay healthy. They watched the greatest basketball player of the late 70s crumble before their eyes. They watched their franchise take another brittle big (Sam Bowie) over the greatest player of all time (Come on?). They watched Arvydas Sabonis toil away in Europe while his skills could have made the difference for a championship-level squad in the early 90s. They watched all the talent of Rasheed Wallace, Bonzi Wells, and Zach Randolph go up in smoke. And they watched their team pick Oden over Kevin Durant. Those Portland fans deserved better. Unfortunately, that’s not how life works.

Instead, Pritchard got a pink slip, Oden got another arduous knee surgery, and those Portland fans got one more knee to the groin.

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  1. November 20, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Nice article, really enjoyed the read. I think that people are being way too harsh on the Greg Oden pick for the Blazers. I don’t feel that the Blazers made the wrong decision despite the constant injuries and unrealized potential of Greg Oden. It is going to be tough for him to come back and he may never be in a Blazers jersey again. You can’t help but feel bad for the guy as well as the Blazers, so hopefully he can come back and have at least a somewhat productive NBA career. Also, you think you could check out my blog cuz I really wanna hear what you think. http://chrisross91.wordpress.com/2010/11/19/greg-oden-was-the-right-pick/

  2. November 22, 2010 at 6:59 am

    Thank you Chris. And yes, I think it’s easy to criticze Portland, but unfair. You can say ‘what if…” But that’s different than out right saying they made the wrong choice. I do think that at some point he will have, at least, a couple of productive years, although you are almost certainly right that they wont come in a Blazers uniform.

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