Greg Oden's long journey back from microfracture surgery offers a reason to look forward to the 2008-09 season. Less than three months ago, the preceding sentence would've elicited screams of horror from the Portland faithful.
|Losing Greg Oden is a setback, but Portland still has a 'great core of talent.' (Getty Images)|
Don't get me wrong. This is not an ideal situation, but it's not quite a disaster. Portland had its doctors survey Oden before he was drafted and found nothing that kept the team from making him its top selection. Over the last couple of weeks, that situation has changed. Exploratory knee surgery undergone Thursday revealed tiny ligament damage, and the dreaded microfracture surgery is next.
If the Blazers could have a mulligan, they would take Kevin Durant now. Anyone in their position would. There's a reason mulligan is a golf term, though.
The promise of a healthy Oden was originally the right choice, and if he can come back as nicely as former star Zach Randolph did from his surgery, there's still a great chance that he can fulfill all of Portland's expectations.
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One thing we do know is that rushing back from this type of procedure is the worst thing you can do, as Anfernee Hardaway and Kenyon Martin can attest to. Portland knows this too, so it will bide its time with its prized possession. Initial reports that he could be eligible to make it back in March defy logic. Under no circumstances should we see Oden this coming season. Even if he's ready, there's no point in him coming back late in the year. The Blazers would have nothing to gain and everything to lose, so they'll hold him out until next year's training camp rolls around, encouraging rehabilitation but exercising caution.
"Certainly this is a setback, but our future is still incredibly bright," said Trail Blazers General Manager Kevin Pritchard. "Is it disappointing? Yes. However, this is a great core of talent and players of strong character and will continue to be."
The development of second-year forward LaMarcus Aldridge will probably be accelerated due to Oden's absence. Brandon Roy gets another year as Portland's focal point. Missing the playoffs again isn't the worst thing in the world, yielding one more lottery pick to the collection of building blocks.
Oden, the biggest block of them all, is going to be limping around on crutches for a while. The Blazers can only wait and hope it doesn't become a recurring trend. Their No. 1 pick might indeed wind up a lemon, but time and science is on his side to prove he's not.