Here’s the Oden Column
The enduring image? The one that will linger in the memory?
It isn’t just the sight of Greg Oden on the ground, writhing in pain, his left knee a tangled mess of Jello.
No, it’s also the reaction of Brandon Roy. Because Roy was near Oden when the giant center crumpled to the ground Saturday at the Rose Garden. At first, the Blazers’ All-Star put his hands on his head, like an image from the painting, “The Scream.”
Then, moments later, Roy reached down and held Oden’s outstretched hand. It was touching and compassionate. But it also reflected the helpless feeling that suddenly surrounded the Portland Trail Blazers.
Oden was down. After sitting out the season two years ago following microfracture knee surgery … after struggling through an uneven rookie season. … after working and sweating and striving and finally showing glimpses of being a perennial All-Star and a linchpin for a title contender … Oden was down.
And Roy appeared helpless.
It was, undoubtedly, a feeling shared by countless Blazer fans. And when word came later that Oden had fractured his patella and that he’s likely out for the season, the overriding emotion was devastating.
Nobody deserves this. Not Oden’s teammates. Not the fans. Not Nate McMillan or Kevin Pritchard or anybody else who has worked so hard to deliver the franchise from the depths of the NBA.
And certainly not Greg Oden. Say what you will about the wisdom of selecting Oden with the No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft, he certainly doesn’t deserve this.
Think about it. You’re a 21-year-old millionaire, a young man whose talent is accompanied by often unrealistic expectations. You are handed the fortunes of a franchise, and instructed to carry them on your shoulders. You do the best you can, understanding that it never will be enough for some people.
You persevere, come back after missing an entire season, continue to improve … and then this.
You’re out for the rest of the season, knowing that another extensive rehabilitation lies ahead.
The impact of the injury certainly hasn’t set in yet, either for Oden or the franchise. Yet it’s not too early to wonder whether his psyche can survive the coming year. Oden, as much as any top-flight prospect in recent years, faces a constant battle with his own mind.
He’s a young man who says he probably would have been a dentist — if not for the fact that his body was made for basketball. Now that body has failed him. Again.
Perhaps this could have been predicted. There is no shortage of people who aren’t a doctor but play one on the Internet, and they frequently say that Oden’s movements are awkward, suggesting a body that is destined for frequent injuries.
This might or might not be true. But it’s fair to think the trained professionals in the Blazers’ front office would have recognized this.
There will be time for such speculation in the coming days, weeks and months. There will be time to ponder the sturdiness of Oden’s body and mind, and the immediate impact his loss will have on this year’s Blazers.
But for now, there is a feeling of helplessness. And a sense that nobody deserves the struggles that Greg Oden has faced.
Greg Jayne is Sports editor of The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4531, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read his blog, go to columbian.com/section/GregJayne