Counting Greg Oden's Blessings
"I'm sure he's saying, 'Why Me?' Sometimes in life, things like that happen, and you wonder why it's happening to you. Some of these injuries have occurred, not only on the floor but off the floor. There's really not an explanation for why, or sometimes how, they're happening. I'm sure it's been a frustrating start for him." -- Portland Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan on oft-injured center Greg Oden
In what's becoming a tragic annual tradition, Greg Oden's faulty knees have once again failed him, with his left knee requiring recent microfracture surgery. If you're keeping score at home (and if you live in Portland, who could blame you?), that's three microsurgeries for the former number one overall pick since he entered the NBA in 2007.
It feels like just yesterday that the Blazers opted for Oden (despite a slew of head-to-toe injuries that plagued him in his one season at Ohio State) over Kevin Durant in the 2007 NBA Draft, and it feels so recent mostly because we have virtually no memorable images of Oden actually playing in NBA games during the nearly five years that have passed.
At the age of 24 (fill in "He is actually 54" joke here), you have to wonder if Oden will ever see the floor in any meaningful fashion in an NBA game. Not surprisingly, the Blazers rallied around their big guy. From the front office...
"It's hard to put into words the heartbreak for everyone involved, but especially for Greg. He's a young man who has experienced a great number of physical challenges in his playing career and today is yet another significant setback for him," Trail Blazers president Larry Miller said in a prepared statement. "We have a lot of empathy for Greg and his family during this difficult time."
...to his teammates:
Shortly after the news about the latest surgery broke, Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge posted on Twitter: "Praying for my bro G.O. get better!"
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What's crazy about this round of microfracture surgery is that Oden was merely going in for some routine cleanup work on the knee and they found a soft spot that required the much more scary microfracture procedure. I mean, seriously? You start to think that if Oden went into a Walgreens to pick up some cold medicine, he'd walk out with a new microfracture surgery.
By all accounts, Oden is one of the real good guys in the NBA, so I feel like it's only right that in this trying time we help him sit back and count his blessings, and remind him that it should take more than two octogenarian-esque knees to keep him down.
So, Greg, here are four reasons for you to keep on keeping on, my man!
4. Greg Oden has still had fewer surgeries than Sam Bowie The comparison is almost too easy and the parallels are frightening, but with every incremental step that Kevin Durant takes toward winning a world title, the "Sam Bowie : Michael Jordan :: Greg Oden : Kevin Durant" dynamic strengthens.
Of course, it was Portland that used the number two overall pick on Bowie back in 1984, leaving Chicago to scoop up the greatest player in the history of team sports. Twenty-three years later, Portland did it again, opting to team Oden up with LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy, and allowing Oklahoma City (nee the Seattle Sonics) to select Durant with the second overall pick.
Being compared to a journeyman center with feet made of paper-mâché is probably not what Oden had in mind when he was drafted, but he can take solace in the fact that he is only on his fourth surgical procedure since entering the league. Bowie had at least five, that we know of. (Peyton Manning's secret fourth surgery on his neck that was just discovered last week has forced us to caveat all medical procedure counts with "that we know of." Thanks, Peyton!) 3. Greg Oden has made a shit ton of money for rehabbing from injuries As unfair as his injuries may seem (and yes, this will sound cold), let's not lose sight of the fact that Oden has been paid handsomely in his four-plus years in the league for essentially going through the "lather, rinse, repeat" process of getting injured, having surgery and rehabbing from surgery.
According to basketball-reference.com, coming into this season, Oden had made a total of $21,795,444 in NBA salary. Conveniently enough, he has played in a total of 82 games in his career, or the exact same amount as one full NBA season. So from a certain point of view, he's been paid nearly $22 million for the equivalent of one season. For some perspective on that number, if you take the 2011-2012 annual contract numbers for players in the league, Oden would grade out as the third highest paid player in the league for his one season behind Kobe Bryant ($25,244,000) and Rashard Lewis ($22,152,000). To be fair, Oden on crutches is better than a healthy Lewis, so maybe he deserves the money. What the hell do I know?
2. Convalescing will allow Greg Oden time to update his social media elements When he was first coming into the league, Oden was one of the true "cutting-edge" athletes in terms of social media and reaching out to the fans. He had a blog on Yardbarker, a MySpace page and eventually found his way onto Twitter and Facebook, as well. Now all that remains is a blog last updated in 2009, a MySpace page that blends into a barren wasteland of thousands of more abandoned MySpace pages, a suspended Twitter account and a functional Facebook page. I think I speak for anyone in a business that requires content generation when I say that the more time Greg Oden can spend interacting with other human beings via technology the better, because we could wind up with another moment like....
1. Two words -- The Oden Greg Oden could have microfracture surgery weekly on every joint in his body, have every other digit amputated, have chronic bleeding ulcers in his lower intestine, and have jagged, zigzag scars across both cheeks, and his "Magic Johnson" would still make him the envy of every man and the desire of every woman on the face of the earth.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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