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Something to Shoot For

The inestimable Krang (Is that Klingon, perhaps?  Or one of the aliens from the Simpsons?  Who knew we were multi-galactic around here?) stated in his diary yesterday that he was tired of "silver lining" rationalizations surrounding the Oden injury. He'd rather just flat out say that if it stinks, it stinks.  So OK, it stinks.  Hlja'!

But then again that's not going to stop me from pointing out a way we can make a positive come out of this.

Back when we were discussing playoff prospects at least a couple people pointed out that it was likely that some other good teams in the West would face adversity, perhaps allowing us to sneak into a lower playoff seed.  That's certainly possible and it's true as far as it goes, but I don't think it goes quite far enough.  As we're finding out, every team faces adversity.  For some it will be injuries, for others bad chemistry, for others bad officiating.  There will always be something to hamstring your otherwise brilliant theoretical chances.  In a given season the obstacles might be worse for some teams than others (losing Oden is pretty bad) but over time everybody gets their share.

That's why if you're going to be a winning team in the NBA you better learn the truth of this:

Success is not achieved by avoiding adversity, but through overcoming it.

Very, very few teams get that magical season where everything goes right.  Some teams manage to prosper anyway while others fold.

I think it's important that we seize the chance to prosper a little without Oden in the lineup.  It's important because this team has been touted as one of the up-and-comers in the league.  Nobody expects miracles, but if we really do have the young talent people are saying we have we better show a little something at least.  If we can't you have to start to wonder.  It's also important because my gut is telling me this isn't the last injury Greg Oden is going to have in his career.  The NBA is hard on every player's body but seven-footers carry a special burden.  Few of them make it through a career playing all 82 every season.  One would hope future injuries would be far more minor than this one but odds are they're going to happen.  Except this time they might well happen in a season in which we're contending, or even favored.  When that happens we need to be able to look back and say, "Life without Oden is no fun, but we did manage to win games without him there.  In fact that's how we first learned to win them."

Overcoming this adversity, even to the tune of 32-35 wins (let alone more) would be a major step for this team and an important foundation for the future.  I feel compelled to reiterate a point I made a couple weeks ago:  This season is NOT about the lottery.  Though we may be looking at ping-pong balls at the end of the year anyway it needs to be a hard-fought campaign with tangible results.  The consequences of rampant losing at this point--another season in the teens or low twenties--would be far more costly than they would have been even a year ago.  We've spent enough time rebuilding and restocking.  We need to see some results...even just a few early glimmers.  Otherwise players, organization, and fans alike walk into next season--a season which everyone is hoping will yield a good-sized upswing--without a foundation or a tangible basis for confidence.  We'd also walk into that season and all the ones after with enormous pressure on the shoulders of Mr. Oden to be the savior, which is not the role which suits him best or is best for the team.

We're going to find something out about the team this year even with Oden out.  It'll be different than what we thought we'd discover, but maybe no less important in the long run.  It's not a silver lining, but it's a valid set of questions in need of answering.  Coming out stronger as a unit than we were before--a team ready to take that next step with Oden back--is a strong goal to shoot for.  Achieving it would put us way ahead of where we are now...maybe even ahead of where we would have been at this point with Oden still playing.

--Dave (