“We are all wondering what is going on.”
“We’re trying to find a reason for why these things are happening.”
“When things go wrong, we as society want to find someone to point the finger at or blame, and
sometimes things just happens. And these injuries, each one of them… they’ve just happened.”
If you say so, Coach.
Nate McMillan was struggling to explain how Greg Oden could be injured: again. The 22-year-old
former number 1 pick, who was seen by many to be the embodiment of a new Blazers era, will undergo
microfracture surgery on his left knee some time Friday.
Speaking at a hastily-summoned press conference Wednesday night, everyone was searching for
“Things happen,” said an expressionless McMillan. “And I can tell you that this medical staff, [head
trainer] Jay [Jensen], our doctors, they work in the best interests of our players and our organization.”
We’re sure they do. But is anyone else getting an uneasy feeling? A certain pit deep in the collective
Blazer stomach that screams, “enough already”?
After Oden went down last year with a fractured left patella, we were shocked. When Joel Przybilla
suffered a torn patella tendon, eyebrows were raised. Then Pendergraph goes down with a torn ACL,
and Elliot Willams went out for the season with a dislocated patella.
Then it got worse.
News about Brandon Roy’s less-than-stellar play is first chalked up to preseason “coasting.” Then it’s
because he’s sore. Finally, Roy himself reports that both knees are devoid of meniscus, the rubber
pads of fibrocartilage that protects the bones of the thigh and lower leg from crunching together when
running or walking. It’s a chronic condition, and surgery isn’t an option.
“He’s been through this before,” said visibly shaken head trainer Jay Jenson, at times fighting back
tears. “He knows what this is all about.”
But that’s of little comfort to fans who were trying to find a bright spot in a season that looked an awful
like the last one, full of “what-ifs” and a torrent of injuries.
So how did it happen?
Greg had some discomfort in his knee, but it was thought to be the lingering effects of his patella
surgery. By Tuesday Nov. 9, his knee had “a significant effusion,” or swelling, which was drained that
night. The next day, the swelling had subsided, and Dr. Neal ElAttrache attributed it to increased activity
which was to be expected as Oden upped his workload. The next day, Jensen saw Oden’s knee, and the
swelling had gone back up. Jensen told Blazers' doctor Don Roberts, and an MRI was performed that
Nobody was prepared for the results.
“It was like we got kicked in the stomach,” Jensen said. With just Oden, Dr. Roberts, and himself in a
room looking at the film, Greg was the only one that didn’t see what the other two men spotted right off
“It felt like someone close to us had died,” said Jensen. “We didn’t know what to say. We were
So are Blazer fans.
Having to hear that our one-time savior is out for the season yet again, just as he was so close to coming
back, is a little much to bear. Without our best player, without our promising center, many of us are
wondering, “why us?” And will it happen again?
“I can tell you that we’ve done a lot of tests on Greg,” Jensen said. “We’ve done a lot of blood work
on Greg, we’ve done bone density tests on Greg. His bone density is off the charts. His patella was rock
solid. He’s had Vitamin D studies done, and has one of the highest values on the team. We’ve done a lot
of tests on Greg, and they’re all negative.”
Then why did it feel so inevitable this time? Because I’m sure a lot us felt that, as much as we wanted to
believe that a dominant Greg Oden would be banging the block during an honest-to-God championship
run, his health just wouldn’t hold up.
Jensen’s metaphor for Oden’s cartilage deterioration was blunt: “For lack of a better term, it’s like taking
a 9 iron and taking a hole out of the cartilage.”
When asked what Oden’s future was with the team, General Manager Rich Cho was vague at best, and
evasive at worst.
“Greg’s still part of the team. He’s going to be a restricted free agent this summer.”
“He’ll be able to look at other teams. His right knee came out strong. If you ask Greg, his knee is stronger
than before he had micro fracture.”
Not exactly a vote of confidence. What else could you expect, though: the Blazers failed to offer an
extension this year, which, as terrible as it is to say, may have been a blessing in disguise. Imagine if
the Blazers had put near-max money on the table, only to have to wait yet another year before their
investment hit the court.
Now the Blazers will have to decide whether to extend Greg the $8 million-plus it would take to have
the privilege of matching another team’s offer next year, or risk letting him sign somewhere else.
It’s just one more unknown in a bucket full of others the Blazers will have to deal with. From the players
to their contracts, nothing is certain: not even the procedures and diagnoses meant to heal them.
“Medicine is not an exact science,” said Jensen. “There are a lot of things in medicine that are not black
and white, that are grey areas.”
And with this latest news, the Blazers’ biggest grey area just got a little darker.
- Greg’s qualifying offer
- Pendergraph injury
- Roy’s knees
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Rich cho flies to LA