Around the NBA: 12/20/10

December 20, 2010
Nick Matkovich



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  • The obsession with gossip mags and celebrity-gawking web sites allows some to have their feelings tweaked and twisted by the mass media. We're not-so-subtlety taught who to like, cheer, dislike, disdain, abhor, and admonish based on the way a celebrity or athlete greets a photographer hiding between the spruce trees in the front of their house. We don't mind. It's easier to be taught than to teach.

    Most of all, we're instructed on how to sympathize. Such a practice constitutes wailing violently, attending every vigil or service (in the front row. What good is sympathizing if you're not on public display like Kris Kringle in a Macy's storefront?), and voicing displeasure about the cruelties of the world in the LOUDEST VOICE POSSIBLE.

    This how-to guide to sympathy is empty and fake, making the process a rather painstaking one. The practice of sympathizing is best reserved for members of the Armed Forces and anyone daft enough to take on Judge Judy.

    Forgive me, but I find it difficult to sympathize with professional athletes in most cases. Money, yada yada yada, professionally playing a game we love, yada yada yada, speaking in the third person... You get the drift.

    Exceptions, much like good songs in the overrated body of work of Phil Collins, can be found.

    You want to sympathize with someone? Don a black veil for Greg Oden.

    In this, his third NBA season, Oden has played only 92 career games. That type of time on the court is fine if you're a twelfth man, it's a demonizing stat for a former number one overall draft pick. His 2010-2011 campaign is over as a result of microfracture surgery.

    Oden's medical history reads like Mickey Mantle's without a sprinkler system to blame, or a bucket of ice to alleviate the hangovers. He's missed time from a broken wrist, sprained foot, twisted ankle, and the recent micro fracture surgery due to knee problems. He is a walking Operation Board disguised in the red, white and black of the Portland Trailblazers.

    Even when healthy, Oden was the little kid who couldn't eat anything because he was allergic to half the grocery store. Coaches have had to carefully monitor his minutes in feeble attempts to keep their center in one piece. The tediousness of that job coupled with Oden's inconsistency to stay healthy has made him less than a treasured piece to have on your roster.

    The yearly maladies that Oden suffered through has to make the front office of the `Blazers believe he can't be depended on. The injury news should not have come as a surprise. Each year it's something new that breaks off this gingerbread man of a potential NBA superstar.

    The latest ouchie does nothing but incite the debate that existed between selecting Oden or Kevin Durant with the number one pick. The Oklahoma City Thunder (the former Seattle Sonics) had the easy task: sit back and watch the `Blazers make the first selection. Reap the potential benefits of who is left over.

    (Full disclosure: I agreed with the Trailblazers when the organization selected Oden number one overall. The idea of one player controlling the paint made his potential tantalizing. Durant was a fun player to watch during his one year of college, but Oden could change the game defensively.)

    The `Blazers knew they were getting a dominant defensive player with limited offensive skills. Oden showed little to no prowess with the ball in his hands at Ohio State. His appeal was the absolute fits he gave opponents trying to score the basket in the lane.

    The benefits of Durant have been countless which adds to the sting of Oden's inability to stay healthy. If Durant was an above average wing player who was averaging around 16 points per game, the distaste from the selection would not linger as it does today. Durant's success has sharpened the sting of everything Oden has gone through.

    Yet, I can't feel comfortable calling Oden a "bust." A "bust" exists in the Ryan Leaf school of bad quarterbacking and Darth Vader as the face of your franchise. Oden can rightly wear the label of "injury-prone" or "injury-plagued" but his injuries have been so devastating and numerous that it's difficult to say exactly what he is as a basketball player.

    I can say I feel bad for him.

    Note: These are the views of the 6th Fan Blogger. Thoughts and opinions expressed in this articles are not necessarily the views of the Milwaukee Bucks.