Ah, the memories.
Like that time Greg Oden had 33 points and 23 rebounds in a win over Toronto.
Wait. What? That was LaMarcus Aldridge?
OK, well, there was the game Oden led the Blazers to a stirring comeback for a playoff victory over the Mavericks.
No? Brandon Roy? Hmmm.
Well, he did confirm the greatness of the 2007 Draft class by leading his team to the conference finals last year, didn’t he? Please tell me he did.
No? Kevin Durant? Whatever.
So, maybe the memories of Greg Oden’s time in Portland haven’t been so great. And maybe he generated few moments on the court. And maybe Friday’s news that he has undergone another knee surgery — it was on either his right or left; who can keep track these days? — signals the final, unequivocal, undeniable end of any hope that he will ever contribute as a Blazer.
But perhaps the biggest frustration of Oden’s time in Portland is the fact that he has became an enigma. He seemed gregarious at one point, entering the league as a 19-year-old millionaire with the world on a string and a blindingly bright future.
But he has morphed into a sullen, inaccessible enigma.
That’s what happens when you sit out what should have been your rookie season after having microfracture surgery. And then play 61 games in a season truncated by another injury. And appear in 21 games before having yet another season ended by yet another injury.
And when Oden crumpled to the floor at the Rose Garden on Dec. 5, 2009, nobody but nobody could have imagined that it would be the last time he would be seen in a Blazer uniform.
That is what it has come to.
Oden is eligible to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, after collecting what has been reported as $1.5 million for a year of doing nothing other than having more surgery. And it would be more wise for the Blazers to re-sign LaRue Martin and Sam Bowie than to bring back Oden.
This ends any doubt, finally allowing the franchise to move forward in a post-Oden world.
So while the latest surgery might be the best thing that could have happened for the club, you can’t help but feel for Oden.
It’s not a matter of failing to live up to expectations; it’s a matter of never having the opportunity to do so. It’s a matter of seeing how the frustration of having his body betray him has altered his personality.
There were moments in those early days of humor and joy and a self-effacing personality. When a 20-year-old known for his old-beyond-its-years face can joke about going to high school with presidential candidate John McCain, you can’t help but root for him.
Even now, despite the frustration of Blazer fans and the frustration of a franchise that has paid him more than $20 million, rooting for him would be the prudent thing to do.
Oden will be moving on, and we can only hope that he will regain his confidence, regain his joy, regain the personality that could have made him a star. Portland was treated to little more than stories about Oden spending time in bars or e-mailing nude photos of himself, yet you can’t help but hope that there is more substance to the man.
He’s 24 years old, and at that age nobody deserves to be saddled with lifelong labels. So, as the Blazers prepare to part ways with Oden, the epitaph of his time in Portland has been written: Greg, we hardly knew you.
Greg Jayne is Sports editor of The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4531, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read his blog, go to columbian.com/weblogs/GregJayne