Thursday, September 13, 2007

Good thing you didn't stay in school, Greg

Don't hurt yourself, Greg.

Greg Oden out for the season.

I had just been on the internet at school, AOL Fanhouse, arguing the merits of Greg Oden on one of their "Biggest Cornerstones" message boards. My comment didn't post, for some reason. Basically, I stated my opinion that other than LeBron, Oden is the one guy in the league right now that I'd pick to build a franchise around. I had already heard yesterday that they were going to be conducting an exploratory knee surgery on him, and I watched the ATH and PTI guys talk about it on ESPN. Tony and Mike drew the obvious comparisons to Bill Walton and Sam Bowie, Portland's two other injury-prone big men, but I felt that they were jumping the gun a little. Honestly, I didn't expect anything to come of it. Stories in the sports world get blown up all of the time only for nothing to come of it. For whatever reason, I thought this was gonna end up being one of those stories. And with that in mind, I made my case for Oden. Franchise big man. The next Duncan. The Can't-Miss Kid.

So I get home, click on the tube, and ESPN is already on. It's Romey and the boys, chatting it up in The Forum. The TV was muted, but the headline for the current topic read something like this: Oden: Bad News For the NBA. Now, Tony and Mike had taken a similar tone the day before, and I thought nothing of it. Everybody just needs to calm down; nothing's happened yet. This time, though, it was different. Like something had gone wrong. I hit up ESPNEWS, and the "Breaking News" signal has been activated at the bottom right hand corner of my screen. Inside the box, a shocking turn of events had been revealed.

Greg Oden out for the season.

You can imagine how surprised I was. Couldn't believe it. As it turns out, I didn't take the warning signs with Oden seriously enough. Broken wrist. One leg longer than the other. Tonsillectomy. Just found out today from Simmons that he pulled out of the Team USA practices because of exhaustion (at 19). The red flags were there, I just ignored them.

So where do we go from here? Well, Oden had microfracture surgery today. It's supposed to help restore knee cartilage. Books still open on it; it's still relativley new, and it's only worked to varying degrees in the past. Let's look at some of the more high-profile patients who have gone under it's knife:

Jason Kidd. Kidd had the surgery in 2004, the year he would turn 31. He's not as fast as he used to be, but that may have as much to do with age as any surgery he had. Anyways, at 34, he's still one of the game's premiere point guards. Averaged a triple-double (14.6, 10.9, 10.9) in 12 playoff games last year. Success

John Stockton. It says on Wikipedia that John Stockton had microfracture surgery. I don't remember this. If he did, there was nothing the surgery could have taken from him, physically; he was always slow and he could never jump. Stock got by on brains and guns. He's not relevant in this discussion.

Zach Randolph. Z-Bo has girth and an excellent low-post game. He's not a great athlete, never has been. Irrelevant

Antonio McDyess. Dice hurt his knee early in the 2001-02 season. He was just entering his prime. Coming off a career year. He was never the same. A role player ever since. Failure

Chris Webber. I remember when Webb hurt his knee. 2003 West Semis, Game 2, in Dallas, coming off a blowout win in Game 1, with Sacto considered the favorite by some to win the whole damn thing. As a Lakers fan, I was legitimately worried by this Kings team; L.A. was in the middle of a series against the Spurs, which I just knew they had in the bag. The Lakers used to own the Spurs. Sacto was the only team I was worried about. I know this sounds bad, but when I saw Webb go down and limp off that court on TNT that evening, I was positively giddy. We had it in the bag.

And then, the Lakers got blown off the court by the Spurs in Game 6 at Staples and were sent fishin'. Serves me right.

Anyways, when Webb came back, he was no longer the MVP candidate that he was before the injury. His hops and explosiveness were gone. Still a very good player whom I gained respect for the way he changed his game and learned to play on the ground. But not the same.

He was 30 at the time of the injury, so his athleticism was already about to start declining, but the surgery didn't stop the injury from accelerating the process. Failure

The surgery did nothing to help Allan Houston, Jamal Mashburn, or Terrell Brandon, and they were forced to retire. Penny Hardaway had the surgery in 2000, but it's possible there was nothing that could've saved him. He was just a guy with chronically bad knees.

Kenyon Martin only played two games last year. Jury's still out.

Amare Stoudemire...a ha, finally a definitive yes. Amare had the surgery in the summer of 2005, missed all but three games in 2006, then returned last year and made first-team All-NBA. He's come all the way back, and he's the template we'd like to use for Oden: a young, athletic big man, a verifiable freak of nature, who had knee troubles, took a season off, then returned to wreak havoc on the league.

I hope that's what happens to Oden; he seems like a really good guy and we need as many great big men who play like big men as we can get. They are a dying breed. Oden has a chance to be the next dominant center and an all-timer. But I can't say that I'm overly optimistic; I'm starting to get a bad vibe about Oden, all of this stuff happening so close together, in the past year or so. As Tony said today, maybe Oden is just one of those unlucky guys who can't stay healthy. It's starting to feel that way. If it happens once, it's an accident. If it happens twice, it's a trend. If it happens three times, it's evidence. (If it happens four times, I stole that saying from Chris Berman and Tom Jackson.) Greg Oden appears to be an injury-prone guy, and I have a terrible gut feeling that he may end up being the next Walton or Sampson, a potential legend who couldn't stay on the court and thus never got the oppurtunity to maximize his vast potential. This is bad for Oden, this is bad for the Blazers, and this is bad for the NBA.

And it's bad for Kevin Pritchard, the guy that made the pick. Kevin and I were on the same boat: the writing was on the wall, but neither one of us could read it.

1 comment:

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