So Ben keeps putting up all these stathead predictions showing the Blazers with an incredibly bright future. And yet even though I'm as much of a stathead as the next guy, I still find myself feeling like this team is doomed.
Much of that has to do with my weird belief that Oden's never going to deliver more than a fraction of what the stats show he's capable of. Again, as a stathead, I've been trying to figure out why I'm so convinced of this notwithstanding the stats. I mean, the numbers are very clear, and the numbers love Oden.
And then this article I read this morning just seemed to encapsulate so much of why I'm pessimistic about the big guy. I haven't seen this Quick article linked yet, but I found it astonishing. The lede pertains to the bad knee news that I'm pretty sure everyone around here has already heard much about - the patellar tendinitis, the missing opening day for sure, no confirmation of timeline blah blah cakes.
But I actually thought the other two things were even more jawdropping.
1) He "quit" drinking. Not totally quit, but pretty much quit.
2) He has turned some kind of corner in emotionally processing that Durant is better than him despite being chosen after him due to some concerted help from his mom.
Let's take these in order.
As Don Draper said, the minute you have to cut down on your drinking, you have a drinking problem. When Roy is surprised and pleased to hear thirdhand that Oden's stopped drinking, that implies a couple of things. (1) Roy and by extension the team was aware of and concerned with Oden's level of drinking, enough so that his "quitting" drinking is welcome news. (2) Oden's drinking had gotten significant enough so that Oden quitting was news that spread around the clubhouse.
When Bayless says you can tell he stopped drinking just by how much healthier and fitter he looks, that implies that he thinks the level of drinking was noticeably hampering his health and fitness. Just astonishing to read in the mouth of the team mouthpiece without editorial comment, and I'm surprised how little of a fuss was made about this.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Oden also has made the decision to accept the fact he was the No. 1 overall pick in 2007, and in essence, to accept the fact that No. 2 pick Kevin Durant has blossomed into one of the NBA's best players.
This is just an amazing statement. You expect elite athletes to deal with the reality of being lapped by a guy you're competing with by getting their competitive juices flowing and resolving to do everything in their power to catch up in their performance, not take some kind of survivor's approach of trying to emotionally process that reality.
The fact that Quick describes this as a plus and as some kind of sign of Oden emotionally healing (the headline is "Greg Oden's mind appears to be mending quicker than the knee") makes me think (1) that's some incredibly low expectations we're revealing here, and (2) just how emotionally damaged and fragile is this guy? I think we already all knew he didn't have that Jordan/Bird assassin mentality and that Durant did, but I thought when we drafted him that he could be a goofy underachiever that was still pretty great, like a poor man's Shaq. This kind of thing makes me wonder if he'll ever be able to pull it together.