Update (9:57 AM): This post has been updated. See below for clarification.
On Sunday night, former Portland Trail Blazers power forward Jeff Pendergraph appeared on Comcast SportsNet Northwest's Talkin' Ball post-post-game show to discuss his season-ending knee injury, his upcoming surgery and what it felt like to be waived by the Blazers.
Pendergraph, as is his custom, did not mince words, speaking candidly about how surprised he was by the differing medical diagnoses and the team's decision to release him.
Pendergraph said that he was initially informed by Utah's team doctor that his knee injury was minor. "I was like, 'Cool. Heck yeah. I'm going to be back in 4-6 weeks, I'll be back smacking people, it's nothing.'"
That initial diagnosis led to some real surprise when an MRI the following day revealed major ACL damage that would end his 2010-2011 season. "All of a sudden I come here, get my MRI and everything as a precaution and the doctor tells me my ACL is gone," Pendergraph said. "Not partially torn, not a little bit, not a lot ... gone."
In short order, with the news that he was done for the season, the Blazers elected to release him to free up a roster spot so that they could pursue big man Fabricio Oberto (and, in turn, Sean Marks). The decision caught Pendergraph by surprise and still doesn't sit well with him. "To be honest, I felt like I got slapped. It was like a slap in my face, kinda. It caught me off guard. It wasn't something I was expecting."
While Pendergraph is still upset with how things turned out, he did back Portland GM Rich Cho's handling of the process. "You can tell he's like a person, he's not like some super nerd, and all he worries about is numbers and making sure the salaries balance and he has cap space. I thought he was kind of cool."
Pendergraph went on to say that he expects to be back playing basketball at the start the summer and that Portland did not make any promises to him about a potential future as a Trail Blazer.
For a great piece on Pendergraph by Joe Freeman that answers all the relevant questions about his immediate medical situation and rehabilitation, follow this link.
Here's a transcript of Pendergraph discussing the injury, the diagnoses, his release and Blazers GM Rich Cho. Note: questions have been paraphrased and language has been cleaned up a little bit in some places. A video clip follows below.
Dwight Jaynes: What was the injury like while it happened? Did you hear it?
It was weird for me. It hurt, of course. But it didn't hurt, hurt. It wasn't like a bone breaking or anything. I was trying to block the shot and as soon as I went to jump I knew something was wrong. I felt my knee pop like four times. Felt like my knee blew up and it went back together. And then I was just grabbing my knee. The first thing I did was check my kneecap to make sure it wasn't broken. Like, "Please don't let my kneecap be in my thigh." I looked, I was like, "Alright, cool." It hurt. It felt really weird like I dislocated my knee or something.
Rashad Floyd: What was your initial reaction?
At first, in Utah, the team doctor was like, "Everything feels intact. Everything seems kinda normal. You might have torn your meniscus a little bit. So I was like, "Cool. Heck yeah. I'm going to be back in 4-6 weeks, I'll be back smacking people, it's nothing. And then all of a sudden I come here, get my MRI and everything as a precaution and the doctor tells me my ACL is gone. Not partially torn, not a little bit, not a lot ... gone. He's like, "You're out for the season." It hit me kind of hard, man, it was tough.
Dwight Jaynes: The Blazers waived you. What was that like?
To be honest, I felt like I got slapped. It was like a slap in my face, kinda. It caught me off guard. It wasn't something I was expecting. I had the warrior's mentality of, "I can't wait to get back in the gym, working out, getting my rehab, start killing it like I did last year. I'm going to come back better, though, than I did with my hip stuff.
And then I'm on my way back from Chicago after meeting with my doctor about doing my surgery and my agent calls me. Like, "I think they're thinking about waiving you." I was like, "What?" I was like, "I'll call you when I land." I was sitting on the plane, brewing. The whole time. Like, "What? There ain't no way." The next thing you know, a couple days later, I meet with Mr. Cho, he kind of brings it up a little bit and that Monday comes where it's official, like, "They waived Jeff Pendergraph."
Dwight Jaynes: Did that feel disloyal to you?
Kinda. I went to school to study business, so it made sense to me, it was a logical thing. But, I don't know, in business there's like a certain line where you have people that you care about, and even though to get rid of them would be the smart business thing and economical choice, there's just some people you don't kind of "poo" on. You know what I mean? There's just always people that you take care of regardless of the situation because they've had your back before and you want to have their back when they need you.
Ben Golliver: How would you describe GM Rich Cho? Did he talk to you a lot before he gave you that news?
To me, he kind of reminded me of Kevin Pritchard and Tom Penn put together. Penn was the super numbers guy who crunched everything and KP was like your best friend. Cho is like that, he'll talk with you, he understands the game, he's a real smart guy. You can tell he's like a person, he's not like some super nerd, and all he worries about is numbers and making sure the salaries balance and he has cap space. I thought he was kind of cool.
Here's video of the exchange where he discusses his release. Sorry, the audio is a little off-sync from the video. My bad.
Clarification: Jeff Pendergraph said the initial evaluation was done by a "team doctor." Blazers team sources clarified this morning that the initial on-site evaluation was done by Utah's team doctor, as Portland's doctor doesn't travel with the team like the training staff does. This post has been updated to reflect that change. Apologies for any confusion.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter