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Monday, September 10, 2007
Greg Oden Revisits the Knife, Portland Cringes a Little

When the Blazers, saddled with the wonderful dilemma of the top overall pick in the great 2007 draft, announced that they would select Greg Oden first, there was much rejoicing ... and a smattering of boos from a small but persistent batch of Kevin Durant-loving doubters.

One of the things the Durant-lovers pointed out was that Durant was more durable.

It was basically a crock. Between the two, they have played two seasons of college basketball, and had one injury, which was Oden's. Talk about a small sample size.

And even with that nasty wrist injury in college, Oden has hardly missed any playing time at any point in his life. Can't say he's not durable if he's playing, and winning, year in and year out.

But since being drafted, Greg Oden played in just a few summer league games before retiring to a tonsillectomy. After recovering from that, he scrimmaged a bit, and is now going in for some arthroscopic knee surgery. No word yet on how serious it is.

As we tune out the cackles of the doubters, us Blazer fans -- still high as kites about the team's good fortune -- have good reason to be just a little nervous. We're taking medium-high expectations into a season without one single proven star. Instead we have last year's best rookie in Brandon Roy, the summer league's best player in LaMarcus Aldridge, and the draft's best big man in Greg Oden. They are surrounded by a grab bag of very promising maybes.

And those three pillars of Portland's future are all medical mysteries at this point. Oden is two surgeries and zero games into his NBA career. Aldridge had his rookie year start very late because of shoulder surgery, and end very early with (now apparently cured) heart trouble. His summer league was cut short with a bum heel, that he has since described as possibly being that noxious pest plantar fasciitis -- which grows on NBA big men like kudzu, and almost never seems to go away.

Speaking of sore heels, Roy himself -- the maitre d' who has ushered in Portland's recent run of good fortune -- sat out several games last year with heel trouble.

So, is the future bright in Portland? Yes, as bright as on any team in the league. Is it guaranteed? Not by a long shot. This team will go only as far as those young bodies can carry it. Cross your fingers.