That’s right Blazer fans, the team’s PR machine is at it again. This time, to add insult to injury (no pun intended), they’ve decided that the French public is more deserving of accurate and timely information about our players than we are.
In what is becoming an embarrassing pattern characterized by incomplete, overly optimistic, or inaccurate medical reports about its players, the Blazers have apparently reached a new low point. While the press release for home audience consumption assures us that Batum is just fine after undergoing an operation to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, Pritchard’s statement to the French daily newspaper, Le Monde paints a far different picture. Here is a partial translation sent to me by a friend in Le Mans:
"Sliding easily into the earthy patois spoken in the Sarthe region, Mr. Pritchard announced that young Nicolas Batum had died of ‘minor complications’ during his shoulder surgery on Friday. Pritchard said that, as usual, the team would not address private medical matters except in general terms. However, he did say that Mr. Batum’s death had come as a surprise to the Blazers, especially to trainer Jay Jensen, who performed the procedure in the Blazers locker room. According to Mr. Pritchard, Mr. Jensen had initially believed that the operation was proceeding as planned despite the fact that Mr. Batum had evidently lost ‘several liters’ of blood early on. ‘Nicolas had shown a resilient quality on previous occasions, and it’s understandable that Jay expected him to bounce back quickly,’ said Mr. Pritchard. ‘It was only later on, after his assistant noticed that Nic had not moved—or taken a breath, for that matter—in over an hour and twenty minutes, that Jay began to be concerned,’ he added. Mr. Pritchard then expressed his strong support for Mr. Jensen: ‘Jay’s been around the block. This type of thing may seem unusual to people who don’t know Jay, but, believe me, he’s seen it all. All of us in the office have the greatest respect for what Jay has accomplished and continues to achieve.’"
"Biting easily into a cracker covered with the earthy paté eaten in the Sarthe region, Mr. Pritchard put the day’s events into perspective: ‘It’s definitely a setback for Nic at this point in his career, and we don’t want to minimize that. On the other hand, we aren’t going to fall into any kind of knee-jerk reactions because of this. The important thing is we have a process, and we’ll look at this thing from all the angles, see what works and doesn’t work, and we’ll learn from it. Do we make mistakes sometimes? You bet we do. Do we make the same mistake twice? We like to feel that our process makes that less likely.’"
So there you have it, Blazer fans. But wait, there’s more! Thanks to LkrsSukDablzrs4Eva over at oregonlive for this scoop .... According to LSD4E, a printed email from Blazers President Larry Miller missed the shredder and was mistakenly taken home by a low-level Blazer employee. In the email, which was addressed to all the NBA GMs, Miller said (and I paraphrase) that attempts by other clubs to portray Batum’s surgery as less than successful would be seen by the Blazers as efforts to ‘poison’ future contract negotiations with Batum and other players, and the Blazers would litigate to the fullest extent in those cases. Miller’s position is that the surgery was indeed 100% successful in repairing Batum’s shoulder despite having regrettably left the young prospect in an inert state for at least the time being.
We should soon know even more about this, since Jason Quick has just published a brief account of informal discussions he had today with Nate McMillan about the surgery snafu. Nate reinforced KP’s points about the team approach, and then he seemed to become a bit impatient with Quick’s suggestion that this turn of events might lead to significant problems for the Blazers. According to Quick, Nate said, ‘Look, Nic is—or was, I guess—showing a lot of promise at the three spot. We really liked what he brought on defense. But, don’t people realize that we’ve still got some talented guys on this team who can play that position? I’m talking about guys who are still alive. I just don’t see what all the fuss is about.’ Quick then asked Nate specifically what role he could foresee for Nic in the long term. After an uncomfortable pause, Nate said that he would weigh all the options. He was careful to say, though, that Nic would probably never regain the range of smooth moves he has exhibited in the past. Nate said he "wouldn’t be surprised" to see Nic moving "very stiffly" on the court.
In addition, Quick added some background to his story that may shed some light on KP’s current frame of mind. An unnamed Blazer insider is saying that Pritchard has received inquiries from several other teams regarding Batum’s availability since the surgery. Apparently, the Blazers could obtain Zach Randolph in a lopsided trade if they could make the salaries match somehow. Another possibility is that New Jersey might offer Drazen Petrović straight up. Randolph would fill the role of a "banger" off the bench, that so many Blazer fans insist is the team’s foremost need. On the other hand, Petrović, while replacing Batum as the team’s only (acknowledged) dead Euro wing, would not improve the logjam at his position. However, these are exactly the kinds of unattributed remarks that cause the blogs to brim over with speculation. Please, let’s take this one step at a time!
Finally, this incident with Nic may be only part of a larger, more important story. Rumor has it that the Oregonian is soon going to run a series titled "Quick and the Dead", in which JQ will chronicle these kinds of stories on an ongoing basis. Connecting the dots, it seems pretty clear that there must be other Blazers with similar issues. For example, what are we to think about Steve Blake’s recent play? To me, it just doesn’t seem like the same old Steve. Could it be that the injury he sustained last year was more serious than the Blazers organization let on? In case anybody has forgotten, here’s how he looked after banging his head. Note the gray pallor, the lifeless gaze.
Anyhow, I’ll try to stay on top of these disturbing developments. Can we all call for greater transparency from the Blazers organization? They want our support—both our cheers and our money. Shouldn’t we be treated at least as well as the French?