by Lang Whitaker

Just two days ago, SLAM managing editor Susan Price sent out an email to all of us who write for SLAM asking for our annual “Rookies Most Likely To…” predictions. Those of you who are SLAM readers know of which I speak — it’s the annual mini-feature in which we take most uneducated guesses as to which NBA rookies will have the best rookie seasons.

The first category on the ballot was for Rookie Most Likely To Average 20 Points Per Game. Since we don’t have a category for the rook most likely to win the Rookie of the Year award, this category is the closest thing to it. Because let’s face it: If a rookie averages 20 points a game, he’ll probably win the Rookie of the Year anyway.

Without a second thought, I wrote down Kevin Durant. One reason is because Seattle lost pretty much all their good players, so who’s going to score the ball for the Sonics, Nick Collison? No, Durant’s going to take a lot of shots and score a lot of points this season. Greg Oden may have been drafted ahead of Durant, but Oden is not a dominant offensive presence and he likely never will be.

But more importantly, at least to me, is that I’m convinced Kevin Durant is going to be a better NBA player than Greg Oden. I wrote about this at length a few months ago, and one thing Durant said to me is still rattling around in my head: “I’m just cold-blooded. I really don’t care. Whoever’s in front of me, I’m going to do my best to destroy them.” Contrast that with Oden’s constant modesty and self-deprecation, and it’s hard not to believe Kevin Durant has a drive like nobody else.

HOWEVA, just because Durant is cold-blooded, does that mean Greg Oden will not be an NBA star? Of course not. He’s huge, he can run, he can jump…Greg Oden is going to be an amazing NBA player.

Just not as good as Kevin Durant.

And, as we learned yesterday, not anytime soon, either.

One thing that has been interesting for me to watch this summer has been following Henry Abbott over at True Hoop and his coverage of Oden’s arrival in Portland and the renaissance of the Blazers. The Blazers are Henry’s favorite team, and he has never claimed to be completely impartial in his coverage of the JailBlazers. (Whoops! Sorry, old habit there.)

Since yesterday’s bombshell, Henry’s been all Oden, all the time. Check his most recent posts…

Recent Updates

* Greg Oden is Not Sam Bowie
(9/14/2007 12:12PM)
* What Exactly Happened to Greg Oden’s Knee?
(9/13/2007 7:44PM)
* Grieving with Greg Oden
(9/13/2007 3:24PM)
* The Worst Case Scenario for Greg Oden
(9/13/2007 2:10PM)

But there was one thing Henry wrote in all those posts which caught my interest…

“Resist the urge, Blazer fans, to feel all sorry for yourselves. This is not a cursed franchise. This is a young and promising franchise.”

You know what? Hey Blazers fans? You should totally feel sorry for yourselves. Because until someone shows me otherwise, I’m pretty sure your franchise is indeed cursed. Things were chugging right along in the ’90s and the early part of the 2000s, and then everything fell apart. Since then, your players have been getting arrested, training dogs to fight, bringing guns on the team plane, running trains on women, and now your franchise savior—the guy you basically gave away your leading scorer and best trade chip to accommodate—is injured and may never be able to play with the same gusto again.

I’m sorry, Blazers fans, but these are the facts. Look, teams get cursed. I’m a Hawks fan, and we’re horribly cursed. The Celtics were cursed for a while there. The Lakers can’t seem to do anything right. And the Blazers are cursed, too. That’s just the way the ball bounces.

Also, I hate reading fans of certain teams complaining about their teams having bad luck. Celts and Lakers fans, for instance, are not allowed to whine about their teams not being able to get it together. Teams are supposed to have good times and bad times. Actually, it’s the bad times that make the good times so good. The Atlanta Hawks have not won an NBA Championship since 1958. So for the 6 remaining Hawks fans, it’s going to be a helluva championship celebration when we finally win that ring. (Probably not until 2058, at the rate things are going.) The Blazers have been a good team for a long time. It’s natural to hit a few bumps along the way.

The SLAM Dome was closed yesterday for Rosh Hashanah, a holiday of which I know nothing about. (I just had to call Sam to get the spelling right on that holiday.) Having nothing to do, I ended up sleeping late and then running around the city to take care of some errands. I got an email about the Oden thing to my Sidekick and immediately called Mutoni’s cell to get him to post something. He texted me back that he was posting something pronto. (Love the way the new media works, all wirelessly and stuff.)

By the time I got home and back in front of my computer, there were already about 50 comments. If you look there at 4:47 p.m., I wrote:

It’s too bad Portland’s never before drafted an injury-prone center over one of the best scorers in college basketball. Because then this injury would be sort of ironic.

A few comments later, Russ, contrarian that he is, took exception with my use of “injury prone,” writing: “He’s had TWO injuries in two years. A broken wrist and the knee. I don’t consider tonsillitis an ‘injury.’ My definition of injury prone is a guy like Allan Houston or Shawn Bradley–someone who consistently breaks down with a similar problem that never really goes away. GO seems to be more ‘accident prone’ than anything.”

I can agree with that, but at the same time, two major injuries in two years is pretty significant. I think we all can agree that whatever modifier you want to use, Greg Oden is definitely prone. Shoot, he’s more prone than Jenna Jameson.

And right now, the Blazers seem to be prone to bad luck.

Sorry, but them’s the breaks. Or the microfractures. Or whatever.