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Pivot Points: Why Such Concern for Oden When Portland's Been Struggling Anyway?

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IDecember 8, 2009

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  Greg Oden #52 of the Portland Trail Blazers looks on against the Golden State Warriors during an NBA game at Oracle Arena on November 20, 2009 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Greg Oden's most recent leave of absence from the NBA has started much speculation about the status of the current Portland Trail Blazers team, and what the future may be in store for them.

Well, if right now is any indication, why worry about Oden? The team was showing cracks the size of canyons well before his injury anyway.

There are many things that could be attributed to Portland and their inability to live up to lofty preseason predictions, and injuries are definitely a major factor. Coach Nate McMillan even managed to injure himself dressing for practice.

The question has been posed if the Blazers are cursed, and that's just as good an explanation as any to try to explain the franchise's lack of success over the course of the years.

Injuries beset any team, but Portland's inability to win a championship with some of the teams they have fielded defies explanation.

Clyde Drexler's teams did have to contend with Michael Jordan and his Bulls, but the makeup of Portland's teams were arguably more talented than Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and their traveling circus.

The Portland teams of the early decade ran into a young Kobe Bryant who was just beginning to understand his talent and the most dominant big man in the game in Shaquille O'Neal.

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I watched that first series won by the Lakers in Game 7 after trailing by 15 points in the fourth quarter and was positive that Portland had a better team, but the Lakers had a deeper resolve and were more hungry.

Some people like to say that Portland is distinguished by the various injuries to their big men that had the potential for greatness, while I think their biggest signature moments have come in their failure to realize potential as a team.

This team is no different than the wide scope of observers that felt that Portland had the overall talent to challenge the mighty Lakers in the west, but their shortcomings became evident early in the season.

The team is no doubt stacked with talent, but for the most part their talent is inexperienced and virtually untested.

Brandon Roy is one of the best players in the league, but even he seemed to regress a little this season, and the veteran leadership they believed they were getting in Andre Miller never materialized.

The rest of their young players, especially LaMarcus Aldridge, seem dreadfully unprepared to assume the mantle of leadership should it be thrust upon them, and that's just the experience issue.

For all their talent, the Blazers have been a team that has been unable to grasp the concept of team defense. Their roster is stacked with athleticism, but that hasn't translated into better team defense.

At the beginning of the season, they appeared to be playing better on the defensive end, but that effort disappeared as the losses began to mount. Now they find themselves stuck in the middle of the extremely competitive Western Conference.

So now Portland finds themselves at a crossroads, faced with yet another lost season by their franchise center and stuck in neutral in their quest to move forward as a franchise.

It's a sad state of affairs for a team that so many felt could do great things, but not at all an unfamiliar one.

Portland has after all been dealing with catastrophic injuries to their franchise big men, and more importantly, they are very familiar with the inability to live up to their talent, which is better described as their curse of expectations. 

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