In the latest example of how cruel this world can be, Portland's Greg Oden is already hearing his name lumped in with Sam Bowie before he's even played a game.
|Oden has done an excellent job deflecting all the irritating questions. (Getty Images)|
Portland took him ahead of Michael Jordan a nightmare ago.
Never mind that at the time it made more sense to bring in a highly touted 7-footer than it did to see whether Jordan and Clyde Drexler could play together. Remember, the year was 1984 and that was a different NBA, with the game more predicated on big men than it is now. Hakeem Olajuwon, then Akeem, was a lock to go first.
Jordan was chosen third and went on to revolutionize the sport. Bowie, his career plagued by injury, became synonymous with the word "bust." No. 1 pick Michael Olowokandi won't have to struggle with the "Bowie" stigma because there was no Jordan in his draft. Same goes for Kwame Brown.
Bowie, a No. 2 pick, catches the full brunt of being a punch line in basketball history, even though he was more than serviceable when healthy. He was the player selected ahead of Jordan and didn't pan out. That's cruel in its own right.
Far more unjust is that many have already gone so far as to write off the amiable Oden as the next Bowie, which by that equation makes Durant the next Jordan. All these judgments are being made before either rookie has even carried his first bag on the road. It's to the point where Oden already feels like he has to apologize for putting a damper on his team's momentum.
"I would like for me to be playing and not seem like I'm a high maintenance player, but things just keep popping up," Oden wrote in his blog on Tuesday, detailing that his need for an exploratory arthroscopic knee surgery stems from a sharp pain he felt getting up off his couch roughly a month ago.
Residents of Portland aren't pulling season ticket orders yet, but the ominous sense of impending doom is already starting to set in.
The Trailblazers' last two potential franchise centers, Bowie and Bill Walton before him, wound up being high maintenance. Walton helped deliver a title and won an MVP, but he was hurt more than he was healthy during his time as franchise savior. Oden doesn't want to be that guy. He might wind up being next in line in this cursed lineage, but can we wait until his first stint on IR before we write him off?
Seriously, Oden couldn't have his tonsils taken out without raising an eyebrow this summer. Can the boy live?
Last week, an MRI showed there may be cartilage damage in his right knee, so a tiny camera is going to have a look Thursday. If all goes well, he'll be sidelined for a few weeks and might even have a shot at being back for the start of training camp.
If there is something amiss, you cross that bridge and you don't dare rush him back. Ideally, he wouldn't have undue pressure on his shoulders linking him to ghosts, but that's the era he's blessed to be a superstar in.