Thanks, Red.

I know this sounds strange, but Greg Oden's season-ending injury isn't just a heaping helping of poop gumbo for the Portland Trailblazers. It's a clear sign from God that the Boston Celtics' Curse has been lifted.

Think about it. Had the Celtics won the draft lottery and gotten the number one pick -- as they'd hoped, wanted, and tanked for -- Danny Ainge would have selected Oden and kept everything else pretty much the same. Which would have meant that, once Oden's knee spontaneously disintegrated, the Celtics would have fielded the same craptastic team that won only 24 games and had an 18-game losing streak last season. That would have been as catastrophic to the Celtics and their fans as Oden's health has been to Oden's career.

Speaking of which, isn't it ironic that the Trailblazers won the draft lottery and selected the one player that, while it's probably still too early to tell for sure, is starting to look like the new century's Bill Walton, the team's last number one overall pick? Seriously. Like Oden, Walton had unlimited potential and could have become one of the greatest centers ever, but injury after strange injury limited him to five and a half season's worth of games over a 10-year career. In Walton's first two seasons alone, he broke his nose, foot, wrist, and leg. He once broke his foot (for the umpteenth time) while riding an exercise bike -- which is better than breaking your knee sitting on a couch, but still. Even in his great MVP season of 1977-78, he played only 58 games due to injury (imagine how the blogosphere would erupt if something like that happened today).

Although, truth be told, Oden's case is even worse than Walton's. At least Big Bill had four reasonably healthy seasons at UCLA, during which he was one of the best college players of all time. Oden didn't have a single healthy season at Ohio State; he had wrist surgery before his freshman year even started. He still played very well for the Buckeyes (15.7 PPG and 9.6 RPG), but certainly not great (which everyone blamed on the fact that he wasn't fully recovered from his wrist injury). Then he missed most of the summer league because he had his tonsils out, and now he's not even going to play his rookie season because of microfracture surgery on his knee. And that kind of surgery means that he might not ever be as good as he possibly could have been. The final book on Oden is far from written,

The poor Trailblazers sure have had some rotten luck over the years. You can put this tragedy right up there with their failure to defend the title in '78 (thanks, of course, to a Walton injury), drafting Sam Bowie instead of Michael Jordan in the '84 draft, Clyde Drexler's evisceration (by Jordan) in the '92 Finals, and of course the infamous 2000 Western Conference Finals meltdown.

Everybody's talking about how fortunate the Supersonics are for getting Durant instead of Oden. And they are. But the Celtics are the real winners here. Instead of a relatively unproven, seemingly injury-prone center with a huge question mark hanging ominously over his career, they dealt for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. Which, as I pointed out, means the curse is officially over. If it wasn't, the Celtics would have won the lottery, selected Oden, and everybody would be comparing this to Boston's many doomed draft picks (Len Bias, Michael Smith, Acie Earl, etc.). I'm telling you, Red Auerbach's ghost is behind this. He sacrificed himself to break the jinx. I will always believe that.

As a final note, Evil Ted just came by my cube and said: "I hope you're writing about Greg Oden." After I told him I was, he said, "Good. Tell everybody we were right. That dude's 40 years old if he's a day. Microfracture surgery at 19? Yeah, right. The man is middle-aged, and this is what happens to middle-aged men who play professional basketball."

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
DISCLAIMER: I am a huge Blazers fan who has lost a helluva lotta wind outta my sails. Please keep this in mind.

First, congrats on the Celtics. I'm glad to see they are relevant again. Now I think it's a little premature to call Oden the next Walton. Yes they both have had strange physical problems, but medical advancements have come a loooonng way since Walton had his surgeries. This is advanced stuff nowadays involving lasers and cells forming new tissue! Another factor to consider is that Greg is dedicated and a gym rat. He's not darius miles whose idea of recovery is bloating up to 40 pds over weight. His idea of recovery is probably working his ass off like Zach Randolph and Amare Stoudamire did. Listen i know this rant is borderline incoherent, but let's not say the Blazers are cursed just quite yet. Ok?

Blogger Basketbawful said...
sun devil -- Just to make things clear, I'm not saying that the Blazers are cursed. I don't believe in curses. Well, except for the one Papa Shango put on the Ultimate Warrior. But all other curses, conspiracies, and what not are bunk. However...the Blazers have had a lot of bad luck for a franchise that has always tried really hard to be good. I would say that the Blazers have tried a lot harder than a lot of other teams to create a winning product. I hate to see them go through hard times.

Also note that I said "while it's probably still too early to tell for sure" about Oden. But I've read a lot of reports about how his legs aren't the same length, how medical reports show his body has a lot of internal issues, etc. Bill Simmons think he walks like a 50-year-old guy. There's just a lot going on inside Greg that makes me wonder. And, for all his potential and hard work -- which I'm not arguing against -- we haven't really seen the full-force, franchise player that many people believe his is or can be. I'm not saying that we won't. It's just a bad start, and feels very ominous. Personally, I hope he makes a full recovery and that, in 20 years, we're comparing Oden/Durant to Russell/Chamberlain.

Blogger LooseChange said...
dear blazers fans,

i'm really really really sorry. from what i've seen and read, greg oden seems like the type of player whose potential and personality give us a new reason (amid a league with more drama and scandal than a springer episode) to be excited about being an nba fan again. let's hope for his full recovery in every way.

regardless of team loyalties, basketball fans everywhere are bummed out right with ya. let me buy you all a beer and we'll cry into it together.

Blogger Al James said...
Um, I think there is a silver lining for the Blazers, and I wouldn't thank Red just yet. Portland will be without their projected superstar this season and traded their 20/10 guy to make room for him. You know what this means? It's another lottery season for Portland. Imagine if they get another high draft pick for next season and aquire possible up-and-comer O.J. Mayo to add to their already bright young cast. If Oden makes a Amre-esque recovery to his microfracture surgery, Portland may be better off than ever because of this. Not to mention that the Boston trio isn't going to get any younger and the salary disparity makes it hard for them to plug the roster holes.

Blogger B-Will said...
You work with a fellow hoop head blogger? In cubicles even? I need a new job.

Playing Basketball in the day or night?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I thought Walton's problems were because of super high arches, something that no medical miracle could take care of. At least microfracture does offer some hope, especially now since they realize how long it takes to recover. Most people who drop off or don't come back have some story about coming back too soon (Kenyon Martin, and Amare, though his drop off isn't big enough to stop him from being a superstar).

As for us Blazer fans, we have Roy and Aldridge, Outlaw and Webster may actually develop (fingers crossed; Martell could be a friggin' monster), Sergio didn't look to good this summer, but Jack is underrated (12 and 5 last year) and Koppenen looks promising. Rudy Fernandez.

Since Oden actually hasn't played for us yet, we still will be an upgrade from last year. Zach is gone, but we'll have a young team a year more experienced, Channing Frye (should be decent), a healthy Pryzbilla, and unity from 5 weeks out from training camp. And if not, same list for next year, plus a top ten pick, plus possibly Oden.

It's definitely a psychological blow, and tempts one to say "what's next?", but I saw a forming contender before Oden, and I'm not changing that now. I think we have a good shot at being like, well, the Celtics. The 80's version. A couple parades, some good times, and the wistful what might have beens (Oden's knee for the Blazers, McHale's foot/Bird's back for the Celtics), though I don't realistically see us matching the quality (i.e., Best Team Ever '85-'86 Celtics).

Anonymous KHayes666 said...
Its been 3 years since this blog was posted. The Celtics have been to 2 NBA Finals and won one of them while Oden has gone on to get microfracture surgery on the OTHER knee.

Oden didn't turn into Bill Walton, he turned into Sam Bowie. Durant is playing the role of Michael Jordan almost to perfection in the process.