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Blazers: It's Time To Move Past the Greg Oden Era

Yesterday, the Portland Trailblazers announced that highly touted 2007 NBA Draft pick Greg Oden will have his third knee surgery in four years, and once again will not play in the 2009-2010 season. This is the second time that a surgery will be required for an injury that was incurred without contact. The surgery will be a microfracture procedure on his left knee, the same one that had been recovering from the broken patella he suffered during December 2009. His previous microfracture knee surgery was on his right knee, endured during the Summer, prior to his rookie season in 2007-2008. This current injury seems to have nothing to do with the broken patella. It would seem that his body suffers something holistically, that heretofore has not been discovered. I hope the medical staff find the root cause, and soon, not from a basketball fan point-of-view, but from a human point-of-view. Can you imagine how painful it must be emotionally, mentally, and physically to return from so many injuries, in such a short period of time? I truly feel for the guy. If someone offered me $19 million dollars in return for suffering this many injuries and rehab time, I’m not sure I would be willing to take it. I think there is a lesson to be learned from all of this.


Greg Oden is in the last year of his rookie contract. On July 1st, he becomes a restricted free agent, which means that other teams will have the opportunity of offering him a contract, and Portland will have the opportunity to match the contract offer, if they wish to retain him. What seems clear to me, at this time, and to many others who follow basketball, is that Greg Oden’s body simply is not built for the NBA. I am not a physician, so who am I to say, but it seems that Oden suffers from some kind of brittle bone disease or disorder that simply will not allow the guy to play basketball. At this point, it would probably be wise of all NBA teams to simply not offer him a contract and let the guy return to normal life. It seems a bit barbaric to keep putting this young man in a position where he is likely to be seriously injured once more. Plus, I’m becoming convinced that even if he gets his body back, how can ever truly trust his body enough to truly maximize his ability on the court? And what is next? The ankles? The feet?

Even wiser, would be if Portland tries to find a suitor and trade Oden for some value in January 2011, before the trade deadline. By then, Oden will be entering his second month of rehab, and the Blazers should have some idea of how the rehab is going.

The center position on the team would be seem to be manned well this season. With Joel Pryzbilla coming back, perhaps as early as eight days away, it would seem that we just have to keep those two healthy and we have a shot at contending for another playoff spot, and likely first or second round dismissal.

My concern is what happens at the center position while going forward after this season? We cannot wait for Greg Oden, and our current plan for our centers includes two guys that are entering the twilight of their careers. If Przybilla shows in the next couple of months that he is able to be that defender, shot blocker and rebounder that he was before the injury, then we should definitely wrap him up with a new contract before the end of the season. That will provide a stop gap, but we definitely need to get younger at the Center position before the rest of our roster ages past the Championship Window opportunity.  Greg is tying up a valuable roster spot and a ton of money that could have been used on a talented role player that can help this team right now.

I don’t share the opinion that many experts have that the only way the Blazers were truly going to contend for a title was with a franchise center of the type that Greg Oden appeared destined to become. If you look at the past couple of years, we’ve been able to manage a spot in the playoffs, without Oden playing a significant amount of time. Even without Roy, who is also suffering his own injury worries, I like our chances. The Lakers are getting older all the time, and we have a ton of young, hungry, talented guys that could help fill the loss of Roy and Oden.

The long and short of it, is that the Portland Trailblazers should stop placing all of their eggs in the Greg Oden basket. Its time to consider other strategies for getting that Larry O’Brien trophy.

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