Grantland published an excellent piece on Greg Oden yesterday, written by Mark Titus, his former teammate at Ohio State. (Oden isn’t the first former teammate Titus has written about.) Titus was able to land a rare interview with his famous friend, but was unable to get Oden to blame Portland for his injury woes. Titus does that on his own, connecting the dots for us and pointing out that Portland has one of the worst medical staffs in the entire NBA. From Grantland:
Although Greg never took my bait and blamed the Blazers for his premature return, it’s impossible not to wonder if Portland’s medical staff contributed to any of the problems Greg endured during his injury-plagued career. This isn’t to say Greg never would’ve gotten hurt had he played somewhere else, but Portland’s medical staff has long been rumored to be less than stellar. At any rate, nobody can deny that Greg genuinely felt pressured — either by the Blazers, their doctors, his own guilt, or all three — to return to the court before his body was ready. That’s why he claims he wasn’t surprised that he needed a second microfracture surgery.
This comes the day after Portland owner Paul Allen published a letter to the fans of the Trail Blazers about what a disappointing season they all just suffered through. Of course, the three main lowlights of the year for Portland were Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden – three high Portland draft picks who did not finish the season on the court for the Blazers. What a sad coincidence.
Titus’ feature / interview with Oden gives us a new perspective on his five disappointing years with Portland. Early in his career he struggled with alcohol. He never had a veteran to help him adjust to life in the NBA. While at Ohio State, one of his best friends died. Oden has been through more than we ever knew. Then, there’s this:
As if all this career adversity and all these “what ifs” weren’t bad enough, Greg’s personal tragedies kept piling up. During his stay in Los Angeles, the blind dog that Greg had raised for the past four years crawled through a hotel balcony railing and fell eight stories to its death. Shortly thereafter, he found out that his cousin from the Air Force — someone who had remained close with Greg, even though they probably should never have been roommates — had been diagnosed with cancer. He died just six weeks later.
Come on! Nobody deserves this. I’m sure I’ll be the thousandth person to suggest it, but I really hope Phoenix and its magical medical staff gives Oden a shot in 2013. Phoenix kept Shaq healthy enough to play 75 games in ’08-’09. The last time he played 75 or more games? The 1999-2000 season! Look at his games played. Grant Hill played 82, 81 and 80 games in his first three years with the Suns. Not to mention – Steve Nash’s back!
Greg Oden at least deserves that chance. He probably won’t be the guy that everyone hoped he would be coming out of Ohio State, but if he can get healthy and play basketball again, it would be a nice story. And that would be a change for Greg Oden. [Grantland]