I found myself two tables away from a conference room’s closed doors in June of 2007. I watched Portland general manager Kevin Pritchard, Martell Webster, LaMarcus Aldridge and the rest of the Trail Blazers walk into the restaurant’s private section, and then close the doors.
It was a day before the NBA Draft, and Portland had the No. 1 pick. Soon enough there was clapping and a few muffled yells coming from the pre-draft banquet. It sounded like excitement.
Then Pritchard stepped out to take a call. Reading his lips failed to grasp, Greg Oden or Kevin Durant?
Either way, it looked like the future.
He walked back in and no one would know for another day. Now, no one needs any more time, of course. Oden’s an unmitigated failure while Durant ascends to MVP status.
We’ve seen this coming for a long time, but it became official yesterday. Oden, going into surgery to clear out debris in his knee, instead had it turn into his third microfracture surgery. He’s out for another year, but let’s be honest, his career is probably finished. I had been at that restaurant, outside the conference room, by chance that day. Portland’s decision, however, was weighed by every indicator. Something was missed in those evaluations.
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There are several reasons it doesn’t feel good to write that. First, I’m a Blazer fan. Second, in Dime #63, I wrote a feature with the idea that, if given another chance, Oden could develop into a younger man’s Marcus Camby or Erick Dampier. Even at that point, there was no mystery that two microfracture surgeries in, he’d lost the spark that made him the No. 1 pick. But, I figured, he could still be more than productive given a narrow role of rebounding and defense.
Chance plays a role here, too. I believed his injury run — even at that point — was just too random to be a pattern and that chance had stolen his first two years of his NBA career. Mike Conley and Grant Hill believed he was in a rut of serious bad luck, but nothing he couldn’t work out of.