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September 14, 2007
Vol. 49 No. 2

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Oden, Trailblazers hurting once again

So much for being the safe No. 1 pick.

There was Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan and now possibly the sad story of Greg Oden over Kevin Durant.

The Portland Trail Blazers franchise does not deserve this a second time around.

Oden, the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NBA draft had micro-fracture knee surgery on Thursday, forcing him to sit out a promising rookie season for the entire year.

In what was supposed to be a minor and exploratory surgery to just drain the knee, doctors found damaged cartilage and were forced to perform the micro-fracture surgery to stimulate the growth of the cartilage.

Oden became only the second player taken No. 1 overall since 1966 to not play in his rookie season. David Robinson was the other in 1987 who honored his naval commitment instead.

But in what may become one of the saddest stories in the NBA, regardless of his impact for the team in the future, the Blazers have to be the most unlucky team in the league past or present. They did not take the wrong guy, they just became unlucky this time.

The Trail Blazers took the wrong guy when they selected Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan in 1986. Bowie managed just three unproductive years in the league while Jordan went on to win six NBA championships and became arguably the greatest basketball player to ever play the game.

What will make this injury especially tough for the Blazers and their fans is that fact that every morning on SportsCenter, they'll have to see the second overall pick, Kevin Durant pouring in 25 points and 10 rebounds a game for a bad Seattle team.

However, it's not like this injury should be a surprise to the Blazers. Oden has proven to be injury-prone throughout his young career. Going into his freshman year at Ohio State, Oden was forced to miss the first quarter of the season due to wrist surgery. Earlier this summer, he had a tonsillectomy before starting to complain about a sharp pain in his knee.

Any concerns the Blazers had about his health should have prompted them to pick Durant as the first overall player chosen. I was of the minority in America who thought Durant should have been the first choice regardless of Oden's health.

Minus some ineffective defensive techniques, Durant has a chance to become the best offensive player ever. He has no limit. Throw in his flare for the clutch performance and his desire to win every day, and you have the logical top pick.

Oden being the top pick may have had more to do with his strong and friendly personality more than his basketball skills. The Blazers have had some tough times in recent years when it comes to player conduct, as they were referred to as the Jail Blazers throughout the early part of this decade.

Oden supposedly did not care where he played, while the Blazers were fearful that Durant would take an agent's advice and skip town for a bigger market after three years had he become a major superstar -- a chance Portland was not willing to take.

When it comes down to it, the Blazers made another mistake. They did not take the most talented player; instead they went with a character guy who they thought the city would immediately embrace. While the fans in Portland may not have associated well with Durant at the beginning, his jerseys would start to fly off the rack once he started winning games for them, something the Blazers haven't done much of in the last few years.

I thought Portland might regret this decision in the future, but I didn't think it would be before Oden ever stepped on the court for a real game.


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