Some links to reaction to Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden's season-ending decision to undergo microfracture surgery on Friday. The Blazers will hold a shootaround this morning; reaction from that coming later.
Update (9:52 a.m.):
Wendell Maxey raised this issue last night.
Under the current CBA, the hardship exemption rule is detailed under "Disabled Player Exception", and "allows a team which is over the cap to acquire a replacement for a disabled player who will be out for the remainder of that season (if the player is disabled between July 1 and November 30) or the following season (if the player is disabled after November 30)."
A league source says Thursday morning the Blazers will pursue a Disabled Player Exception. A DPE requires NBA approval and can be used to sign a player or accept salary in a trade, as noted by Larry Coon.
It was hours before the Trail Blazers' game in Los Angeles on Nov. 7 when Greg Oden walked off the court and received congratulations from Trail Blazers athletic trainer Jay Jensen. The center's rehabilitated left knee, it appeared to everyone who had just watched Oden's pregame workout, looked great.
"It may look great," Oden said as he walked off the court. "But it doesn't feel good."
On Wednesday, the Blazers and Oden found out why.
Ken Berger writes...
NBA executives responding to text messages about the decision Portland will have to make on Oden had mixed feelings. But there is a palpable belief out there that there's no guarantee the Trail Blazers will extend Oden a qualifying offer by the June 30 deadline -- which they must do to retain his rights as a restricted free agent.
"No way," one executive told CBSSports.com. "Tough situation."
Another exec, conceding that Oden's qualifying offer is an "enormous number," said, "I think there's a chance that they won't."
Adrian Wojnarowski writes...
The Portland Trail Blazers have been playing without center Greg Oden(notes) for three years now, pushing past 50 victories and reaching relevance again. They stopped counting on him. The regime responsible for drafting Oden over Kevin Durant(notes) has been pushed out, and a fresh front office bears no burden for a broken No. 1 pick.
Another microfracture surgery for Oden, as the team announced Wednesday, is just another step closer to the Blazers letting him leave this summer.
As much as the training staff likes Oden, it will have to take into account the mental toll that four years of flailing has taken on him. The issues which have surrounded him - his drinking, his deep emotional lows - play into the uncertainty around his future as much as the two microfracture surgeries on his knees.
The Blazers could survive without Oden, but its true star - Brandon Roy - has the knees which truly frighten the franchise.
Kevin Pelton answers questions...
What Happens When Oden Becomes a Free Agent?
As fascinating as LeBron James' free agency was for obvious reasons, Oden's may be even more interesting to watch. Suffice it to say that there has never in NBA history been a free agent quite like Oden--a player whose talent justified the No. 1 overall selection but whose future remains murky at best. After passing on the opportunity to negotiate an extension with Oden, Portland general manager Rich Cho must decide on an $8.8 million qualifying offer that would make Oden a restricted free agent (assuming a new Collective Bargaining Agreement does not blow up the entire RFA system).
The easy answer there is that the Blazers would pass on the qualifying offer, especially because they are over the luxury tax, despite the fact that it carries no long-term risk. That's not to necessarily say that Oden's career in Portland is finished, since the team could still negotiate a smaller deal with him as an unrestricted free agent.
What would other teams be willing to offer for Oden? For the next few months, that will make a fascinating topic for debate. My gut reaction is that the most I would offer for Oden, assuming a relatively stable marketplace under the new CBA, is $15 million over three years. Such an offer would carry a significant deal of risk, certainly, but would also stand the chance to potentially be a bargain should Oden be able to stay reasonably healthy.
Dwight Jaynes on Blazers fans...
And through all of that, they've been lining up to buy tickets in Portland, season after frustrating season. And lining up, it seems, for years just to get their hearts broken.
Like I say, how much is enough? How long can this go on? These people here, these fans, they deserve so much better. But how long can you last as a fan of this team? Isn't there a breaking point - a time when you just have to walk away and invest your emotions and hard-earned money in something a little more predictable? Heck, the Clippers or Cubs won't break your heart - they'll just lose and you can laugh and go on about your business.
But the Trail Blazers? So much promise. So much of what just seems like awful, horrible, despicable, crummy damn bad luck! I have always believed in karma and Trail Blazer fans are due some good karma, aren't they? At some point?
Video: The Basketball Jones discuss Greg Oden.
J.A. Adande goes after the medical staff...
And it's possible he needs to be surrounded by a different medical and training staff. Oden's knee troubles are the latest in a Portland line that includes Zach Randolph, Darius Miles,Joel Przybilla and Brandon Roy, the franchise player who limped through the playoffs and currently is on the shelf for at least a week. I've had NBA people from inside and outside the organization cast wary eyes on the Trail Blazers' medical ways.
At a news conference Wednesday, the Blazers went out of their way to praise the medical staff, with team president Larry Miller saying, "We have without a doubt one of the most respected medical and training staffs in all of sports," and general manager Rich Cho's opening statement consisting of "These guys are top notch. These guys are very knowledgeable, thorough, extremely hard-working, and I support them 100 percent."
That was all unprompted, before athletic trainer Jay Jensen was asked, pointedly, whether the training and medical staff ever wonders whether it needs to re-evaluate its methods.
"Absolutely," he said.
Chris Mannix on Greg Oden's future...
Much of this will depend on Oden. His body will heal. Amar'e Stoudemire's did. So did Jason Kidd's. Kenyon Martin underwent microfracture surgeries on his right knee (in 2005) and left (2006) and bounced back to play 71 games in the 2007-08 season.
It's the mental scars that linger. Oden will need to believe that every time he leaves his feet to block a shot there isn't nine months of rehab waiting for him when he lands. Or that every high-speed collision won't result in him having to be carted off the floor on a stretcher.
Can he do it? Probably not in Portland. The final pages of that chapter of Oden's career have probably already been written. But if Oden wants it bad enough there is a good chance there will be more to his story.
Sean Deveney of the Sporting News writes...
Oden's injuries are just the beginning. Last year's team was so ravaged by injuries that fans began to wonder not whether the team was cursed, but whether its trainers were competent. Roy has since regressed, battling a persistent knee injury that has to make Blazers fans nervous. Fernandez, whose role on the team has been reduced each year, spent this past summer demanding a trade or a buyout. Outlaw was traded for Marcus Camby -- who became necessary after season-ending injuries to Oden and Joel Przybilla -- last year. Pritchard was awkwardly fired this year, and McMillan is in the last year of his contract.
That Portland still looks like a playoff team in the West is a testament to the good work the organization has done in drafting and signing free agents. In a way, though, Oden is emblematic of what's happened with the team in general. This bunch was supposed to be much more. It is bad luck, and it hasn't turned out very well.
Zach Lowe on Oden's future...
The Blazers could, in theory, retain the right to match any competing offer for Oden by tendering him a qualifying offer worth $8.79 million. But they won't do that. They can't. That's the kind of salary you give to a solid NBA starter, and no team can afford to pay such a salary to a player with Oden's injury history. Especially not a team whose 2011-12 payroll will be pushing $60 million if they decide to pick up the last year on Andre Miller's contract.
Royce Young on Kevin Durant and Greg Oden...
It's expected to compare the two players. I get that. It was a controversial pick at the time and it stands to be evaluated for a long time. It's what we do as sports fans. We play the armchair GM and judge and scrutinize and play the "What If?" game. When somebody makes a decision to take one guy over another, we have to pick it apart. What if the Pistons had taken Carmelo instead of Darko? What if the Hawks took Chris Paul instead of Marvin Williams? What if Shaq decided to be a synchronized swimmer as a child? Things might be different, but who really knows? Maybe Durant gets swallowed up in Portland's scheme and never evolves into the machine he is now. Maybe Oden lands in OKC and never is in a situation that gets him hurt and becomes an All-Star center. You just can't say for sure. You can't.
The thing is, Durant has always viewed the fact Portland passed him over as motivation. He hasn't been shy about that. That's who he is. He's competitive and the fact he was slighted has always given him a small chip on his shoulder like he still has something to prove.
But I can promise you, this news bummed KD out. He didn't want it this way. He didn't want people to come and pat him on the back and say, "See, Portland should've taken you, huh?" under these circumstances. He wanted to earn that. On the court. By outplaying Oden. Not by outlasting him.
Noam Schiller on Both Teams Played Hard...
Remember this. Remember, as you see Al Horford and Joakim Noah deservedly earn a combined 120 million dollars, that for that special night, even in a loss, Greg Oden looked better than the both of them. Remember, as you watch the new and diminished Brandon Roy labor around the court, still scoring, still leading, still damn impressive, that the old Brandon Roy was Kobe lite for that magical 08-09 campaign. Remember, as Rich Cho tries to sort out this mess - and I'm confident that he will do the best given the circumstances - that Kevin Pritchard had a damn good vision, and was damn good at realizing it, even if it didn't turn out like we hoped.
Remember the Blazers. Their narrative was one to believe in, and that belief was found wanting. History will remember them as the team that could have been but wasn't. But you know better. Remember them for the future that happened only in optimistic forecasts and Soccer Mom lairs, for the incredible will power, for winning games with their coach and half their lineup in a cast on the sideline. And pray that time's twisted humor will somehow turn this around, that this somber chapter is just the crisis that precedes the climactic, heroic return of the Larry O'Brien trophy to Rip City.
Matt Moore on the Kenyon Martin comparison...
Martin underwent microfracture surgery on his left knee on May 6, 2005, and then on his right knee on November 15, 2006. That's two knee microfracture surgeries within two years, which is actually worse than what Oden has gone through... but only in terms of microfracture. Oden also had surgery on his broken patella last season and his broken wrist in high school ,
Martin, though, did have microfracture on each knee and has returned to being a solid player, despite his inability to get back on the floor this season with a knee injury. The huge difference, though, is that Martin was a star player before the first surgery. Oden's never been able to get on the floor without lingering effects of an injury in some capacity.
Zach Harper on Hardwood Paroxysm writes...
So many of us were so sure about it too. Greg had all of the makings of the stuff legends were sculpted from. He had an impossibly big frame that moved amongst the trees like the Predator big game hunting California's future gubernatorial punch line. He was the protective device behind the emergency glass you were supposed to break on defense if someone dared to approach the basket. Now, he's getting unfunny Mr. Glass references thrown his way. Nobody should ever be subjected to M. Night Shyamalan movie references.
This hits a sore spot with me because I've been waiting with bated breath for the birth of the next great big man. That big man was supposed to be Greg Oden. Like many Blazers fans, I've been sitting here in the refuse of injury after injury with him, just anticipating the day when he was going to prove us all right and take his place amongst the dominating forces in the NBA. I attempted to wax poetically about him a long time ago and try to make the case (poorly I might add) that either I was a freaking genius about what he would become or just plain insane. Turns out I was naïve and insane.
What's that old joke? How do you keep an idiot in suspense? The punch line used to be that you just waited in silence after stating the question and the person waiting for the answer that was strategically not going to come was the idiot. Now the answer is to get that person to believe Greg Oden can still be something someday and watch as I take spoonful after spoonful of this pipe dream.
Steve Sandberg writes...
Oden's status has always been the cloud over the Blazers. Sometimes we've seen dashes of sunlight. Other times, when it's rained, it's poured. But Blazer fans don't want to keep looking at the clouds anymore wondering if we're going to get a good day.
Oden's career has given us the highest of highs. I'll never forget the optimism and enthusiasm that followed Draft Day 2007, the feeling of hope. We'll always hand on to that moment.
Oden's career has given us the lowest of lows. Injury after injury after injury, never allowing Greg to fully show what he was capable of.
Greg, the team, the management and the fans all deserve better. Maybe in time, the memories won't seem so bad.
But as of right now, we just don't want it all anymore.
John Canzano writes..
Maybe it's fitting that the marketing people at One Center Court shifted the message earlier this week. Gone was the "Rise With Us," stuff and in its place was a single, six-letter word that should be plastered across the minds of everyone in this city today.
It is this: Battle.
It's time to battle, not on the court, but in the front office via trade and free agency, where the Blazers have been a non-factor. It's Cho-time.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter