For that feature Oden and I had spoken over the phone two weeks before his second microfracture surgery, before he even knew he’d need that, and he was upbeat about what he saw coming up because of his rehab and the support of the team, he said.
And that’s the reason Oden’s failure is the biggest disappointment: The Trail Blazers bucked the trend of the team that didn’t care throughout this process. In some cities, he’d have been done in the public eye well before his rookie contract was up and the team had the chance to formally end a wholly lackluster era. In Portland, Oden had every chance to succeed. He was brought back this year for a one-year deal after meeting his qualifying offer. Then, they signed him for nearly $7 million less.
Make no mistake, after Pritchard was axed in 2010, president Larry Miller and then-GM Rich Cho were deciding his future with winning in mind, not compassion. But in the process they gave him a shot, and another, and another. Why keep doing that? The Trail Blazers have had egg on their face and chants of “Sam Bowie” in their ears since just months after they decided to take him. Maybe that, in part, drove their moves, knowing they couldn’t risk any further embarrassment and that any successes would be pure profit.
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Well, Oden’s career might be over and it’s true, that’s nothing to be surprised about. But after a lockout where one of the easiest arguments for the players was that owners and teams didn’t care about their well-being, Oden’s situation seemed different. Stories were brought up about players being cut on a whim to save money or move on. Oden, meanwhile, repeatedly said he didn’t want to leave Portland, his only professional home.
Both sides wanted to make this work. No one now believes Portland made the right decision in the first place by picking Oden over Durant. But after that was done, every chance was given to make it right. That it never was able to is the biggest disappointment.
Did Portland treat Oden’s situation correctly?
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