Greg Oden deserves our support
By BlazersLadiesClub Posted in: Blazers, GregOden
There has been a lot of talk this season about Greg Oden, maybe more so than any other year due to his impending contract negotiations. I’ve had this blog topic on my mind for months, but it’s taken me quite a while to put pen to paper as they say.
From the beginning of Oden’s tenure in Portland, he was looked at as the championship piece that the Blazers needed. He was chosen #1 in the 2007 draft, a rally was held for him in downtown Portland, and it was Oden mania before he had played a single game in a Blazer uniform. But before the 2007-08 season even started, he underwent microfracture surgery and missed the entirety of his rookie season. Microfracture: a word that we as Blazer fans have become much too accustomed to hearing and far too familiar with, especially in regards to Oden. In his first 4 NBA seasons, Greg Oden has played only 82 games. We all know the story.
I’m just going to go ahead and say it: In my opinion, most of those who say they would have picked Kevin Durant over Greg Oden in 2007 are lying. Hindsight is a funny thing, and it’s managed to turn many people into naysayers and has people repeating the phrase “I told you so” time and time again.
Despite what many NBA fans (and GMs for that matter) would like, real NBA centers do not grow on trees. If they did, the Blazers would not be searching as hard as they have been at the end of this season to find a big man to round out the roster. When the opportunity to draft a center of Greg Oden’s caliber comes along, you don’t look the other way. You make that pick. You take a chance. And you don’t look back.
Having said all that, I feel the need to emphasize that I still believe in Greg Oden. I still believe that Greg can be the basketball player everyone thought he could be when he was drafted in 2007. He has had numerous setbacks both physically and, I imagine, mentally. But each time Greg has gotten injured he has picked himself up off the floor (quite literally) and said he is not going to give up and he will come back. He has rehabbed and worked hard to get back on the floor, only to suffer another setback. He hasn’t given up. So why do so many Blazer fans seem to have given up on him?
I was at the Rose Garden in December 2009 when Greg got hurt. I watched in agony, as his teammates stared at his knee in horror, the trainers tended to him on the floor, and 20,000 Blazer fans looked on in silence. I read the stories after that game about how Greg apologized to his teammates and to Kevin Pritchard for what had happened. He apologized. What kind of pressure has to be on Greg’s shoulders (self imposed or otherwise) for him to suffer an injury like that and feel the need to apologize? This game was about 2 months before Greg’s 22nd birthday. Now I don’t know about you, but at 21 I was nowhere near ready to have an entire NBA franchise’s hopes and dreams on my shoulders. I know, it comes with the territory, but it doesn’t make it any easier.
In January of this year, Oden spoke with local media for the first time since having additional microfracture surgery in the fall of 2010 (transcript). Reading that interview broke my heart. It was really the first time in Greg Oden’s 4 years in Portland that I felt dejection in his words. These particular questions and answers stood out:
Q: What’s the reception you’ve received while you’ve been out?
A: It’s OK. There’s been a lot of negativity out there. I just try not to deal with that.
Q: Do you hear some positives?
A: Sometimes, sometimes. I definitely hear a lot more negatives. But there’s
definitely some positive people that come up to me and that makes me feel good.
Reading that people are making negative comments to Greg really disappointed me. Is this what some people are doing? Are they running into Greg somewhere out in Portland and feeding him negativity? I spoke to someone personally who told me they had made a snide comment directly to Oden. What do they hope to accomplish with that? This is not Greg’s fault. His body has betrayed him on numerous occasions. Nobody wants that to happen.
I had the opportunity to meet Greg earlier this year at a Blazers season ticket holder event. It was only a couple of days after the January interview. When I shook Greg’s hand I told him that I was glad he’s a Blazer and I hope he remains a Blazer. I’ve heard the opinion that the Blazers should give up on Greg, not sign him to a contract at the end of this year, and move on. I think that would be a mistake. I remember Greg’s injury in December 2009 like it was yesterday, but I also remember how well he was playing leading up to that date. In the 2 weeks before his injury he matched his career-high in points (24) and set a new career-high in rebounds (20). He is a beast! Personally, I am proud of Greg for battling back from his injuries, and I’d like to see him go into battle at the Rose Garden and do so in a Blazer uniform.
(Picture source - Bruce Ely, Oregonian)