Greg Oden

Damian Lillard has back spasms: Isn't it time to consider load management?

Damian Lillard has back spasms: Isn't it time to consider load management?

If ever it was no surprise that somebody was going to have to sit out a game because of back spasms, it’s tonight with Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers.

The man has been carrying this team on his back all season, leading the league in minutes – and those were some pretty stressful, high-usuage-rate minutes, at that. No wonder Damian Lillard has back spasms.

You don’t believe in load management? Well, you probably don’t believe in flu shots, either, right?

It’s the same thing. You don’t have the flu when you get that shot -- you get the shot to keep you from having the flu. Same with load management. You are healthy enough to play in a game, but rather than stress your body another night, you rest. You rest to prevent injuries – which is easier than trying to treat the injury once you get it. And you stave off fatigue that comes from piling game on top of game.

The Trail Blazers are in the midst of a six-game road trip that offers too much travel, too many games and are tonight playing the second of back-to-back games. Lillard should probably sit this game out even if his back wasn’t hurting.

More and more, people are coming to realize that the density of the schedule combined with a lack of sleep that occurs because of the crazy cross-time-zone travel leads to fatigue. And fatigue leads to injuries.

The Trail Blazers, for whatever reasons, have refused to rest healthy players over the years. Part of this, I’m sure, is because the players themselves wish to play. And the team wants to win every possible game in order to make the playoffs. But that shouldn’t matter. The team needs to step up and protect players from themselves. Particularly a player such as Lillard, who knows how important he is to his squad.

Will resting players cause losses? Yes, of course. Not all the time, but sometimes. But would you rather lose a player for three months because of a severe injury, or just lose a game or two here or there?

And when I think back about the troubles this team has had keeping franchise players healthy, I believe more than ever that load management could have been an answer.

Bill Walton, Sam Bowie, Greg Oden, Brandon Roy – would any of them have lasted a little longer with a lighter load? Maybe sitting out a game here and there or playing with a limit on minutes? I think that’s possible.

Obviously, there is no way to prove any of those players – or Lillard – would have profited from load management, but I’d certainly favor giving it a try.

And at some point, the league is going to have to explore shortening the schedule. This is too much and players are paying a price for it.

Former Trail Blazer Greg Oden and new coach Jannero Pargo square off in Big 3 opening weekend


Former Trail Blazer Greg Oden and new coach Jannero Pargo square off in Big 3 opening weekend

This weekend kicked off Week 1 of  the Big 3, a 3 on 3 league that features none other than former Trail Blazer great Clyde Drexler as commissioner. 

In Game 1 of Week 1, the Triplets defeated the Aliens 50-40. Why do we care? The game featured former Trail Blazer Greg Oden (Aliens) and new Trail Blazer coach Jannero Pargo (Triplets).

Oden finished the game with eight points, six rebounds, and one assist. 

Pargo chipped in six points, three rebounds and two assists for the Triplets who were led by Joe Johnson ((27 points, 16 rebounds). 

The 3 on 3 league, which features a 4 point shot, has a number of well-known names playing for it and some with Northwest ties including Jermaine O'Neal, Bonzi Wells, Nate Robinson, Jason Terry, and Gary Payton (coaching).

Can we call it the Blazers' "Case of the Cursed Centers?"

Can we call it the Blazers' "Case of the Cursed Centers?"

This story is painful for longtime Trail Blazer fans but it must be told. Can we call it the Case of the Cursed Centers?

It all started with Bill Walton. The All-America center out of UCLA was the No. 1 pick in the 1974 NBA draft. The franchise knew when it picked him that he’d been plagued by foot and leg problems but he was an elite player – an all-time great at the college level who was a can’t-miss pro.

Walton played in only a combined 86 games for Portland his first two seasons but the third season was a beauty. He was healthy for 65 games and through the playoffs, when he led his team to its one and only NBA championship and was the Finals MVP.

The following season he was the league’s Most Valuable Player but exited after 58 games with foot problems and never played another game for Portland.

Then came Sam Bowie, the second pick of the 1984 draft. He played 76 games as a rookie but only a combined 63 over the next four seasons, as leg injuries sidelined him and eventually led to a trade that brought Buck Williams from New Jersey. And oh yes, the Blazers took Bowie over Michael Jordan, as you remember.

In 2007, Portland again had the first pick in the draft and selected Greg Oden over Kevin Durant. Oden played a total of 82 games over five seasons with the Blazers.

And now, of course, there is Jusuf Nurkic. In late March of 2017, he suffered a non-displaced fracture of his right fibula and missed the final seven games of the regular season. He attempted a comeback in the playoffs but could handle only 17 minutes of one game.

Monday it got muck worse for Nukic, as everyone knows. He suffered a compound fracture of his left tibia and fibula and underwent surgery Tuesday.

Nurkic was moving toward becoming one of the top centers in the league and his net rating (10.4) is said to be the best by a Portland player since the stat was created in 2000.

What is it about the Trail Blazers' centers and their lower bodies? If you were a center and drafted by or traded to Portland, would you decline the opportunity and head to Europe? Invest big money in a company that manufactures crutches?

I’m not much of a believer in jinxes but is it fair to say the franchise is cursed? I don’t know. I just don’t know.

Center is a basketball position that puts a lot of very large men in a small confined space near the basket where they often collide with each other. And often these men don’t seem to have lower limbs sturdy enough to handle the stress on their big bodies.

I’ve always thought these sorts of things even out over time. But as far as the Trail Blazers are concerned, that time can’t come soon enough.

This just hasn’t been fair.

LeBron throws some serious shade on Portland

USA Today

LeBron throws some serious shade on Portland

Have you ever had a day where you were sitting down minding your own business when out of nowhere LeBron James sends a verbal barb your way? Today was that day for Portland.

During today's media availability at Quicken Loans Arena James was asked about the performance of Kevin Durant and what he saw from him when Durant as in OKC. His response, "you knew he was built for greatness from the time he was drafted. I mean, everybody knew that besides Portland... sorry Portland."

Too soon, Lebron. Too soon. 

Doesn't he remember Oden helped his Heat get to the NBA Finals in 2014? Well, he probably blames Oden for Miami losing the series, so maybe he is just a little salty.

But let's be real here, this draft "advice" is coming from a guy who plays for the team that drafted Anthony Bennett first overall. The Cavs could have drafted Victor Oladipo, CJ McCollum, Giannis Antetokounmpo, or Rudy Gobert. The point is, hindsight is always 20-20 Mr. James, don't forget it.


Greg Oden understands he will go down as "biggest bust in NBA history"

USA Today

Greg Oden understands he will go down as "biggest bust in NBA history"

When you watch Joel Embiid look like a force of nature for the Philadelphia 76ers this season, know this: That is how Greg Oden was projected coming out of college. An athletic big man who could score, defend, grab boards, and just be a force in the paint.

But Oden’s body betrayed him. He played just 82 games (one season’s worth) in the five seasons he was with the Blazers. He had seven knee surgeries, three microfracture. Some fans seemed to want to make this a personal failing of Oden’s, when in reality it was the opposite. Most people in his shoes would have given up and just lived the rest of their lives very comfortably on the millions he made off his rookie deal as the former No. 1 pick, but Oden loved the game enough to fight all the way back and make the Miami Heat roster a few years back (during their title years). Miami gave him a shot, but he just couldn’t stick (he played 26 games), his body to slowed and unable to stay healthy. He spent part of last season in China.

But Oden knows how he will be remembered, as he told ESPN’s Outside the Lines:

“I’ll be remembered as the biggest bust in NBA history,” Oden told Outside the Lines. “But I can’t do nothing about that… “Don’t get me wrong,” Oden said. “If I was healthy, I would love to continue playing, but I’m not healthy.”

“Don’t get me wrong,” Oden said. “If I was healthy, I would love to continue playing, but I’m not healthy.”