Commentary: Playing the waiting game

Most people try to avoid trips to the doctor, and for the Portland Trailblazers and their fans, the doctor’s office has quite literally been a sore subject over the last couple of injury-ridden seasons.

Most people try to avoid trips to the doctor, and for the Portland Trailblazers and their fans, the doctor’s office has quite literally been a sore subject over the last couple of injury-ridden seasons. During the 2009–10 season, individual players missed 311 games for health reasons; even so, the team won 50 games and made the playoffs as the sixth seed.

Not bad, but not as good as 2008–09 when the team won 54 games, locked up the fourth seed and had home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Back then, the Blazers were one of the youngest and most talented up-and-coming teams in the NBA, and there were talks of developing into a championship contender in a few seasons.

We were all holding hands and ready to rise together.

Now, a doctor’s chart with a full list of injuries later, the Blazers and their fans are still stuck in the waiting room.

Greg Oden hasn’t fully healed from the patella break in his left knee that caused him to miss 61 games last season, but is likely to return sometime around December. Since being the No. 1 draft pick in 2007, Oden has only played 82 games in three seasons.

Joel Pryzbilla missed 52 games last year from a ruptured tendon in his right knee, later re-aggravating the injury by slipping in the shower, and is expected to make his return sometime in November. Back-up center Jeff Pendergraph will now miss this entire season after an ACL tear he suffered in the preseason.

Those are the only current members on the list, so let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Being in the waiting room is frustrating. It always seems like other people are getting their names called before you, while you’re stuck flipping through another issue of “People.” It doesn’t make sense. You’ve been there for an hour, but the lady who’s only been there for 15 minutes gets to see the doctor? Where’s the order?

Why is Miami signing Lebron James and greedily hogging all the riches? Why is Chris Paul still in New Orleans? Why is Oklahoma City everyone’s darling this season, being picked for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference? And Portland’s “big” free agent summer signing is Wesley Mathews?

There is no order; it’s chaos. Consider this: Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge have played four seasons with the Blazers. That’s longer than the Thunder have even existed as a franchise. Meanwhile, the Blazers’ front office is still asking their fans to be patient.

One thing management knows is that the Blazers’ fans are loyal and used to waiting (33 years since Portland’s one and only championship trophy). The question is: How long will they wait until they start looking for another doctor?

Portland has already made moves to prepare for a “second opinion.” Paul Allen didn’t make any groundbreaking roster changes this summer, but he shook things up in the front office, letting go of fan-favorite general manager Kevin Pritchard and replacing him with former Thunder Assistant General Manager Rich Cho.

The roster changes have been subtler. Portland has slowly re-built its look on the wings over the past couple years, replacing Martell Webster and Travis Outlaw with Wesley Mathews and rookie Luke Babbit—complementary players that possess a better feel for the game and provide more all-around skill. Over the weekend, Jerryd Bayless was traded to New Orleans for a future draft pick, a move that opens up space on the roster without bringing another player back, which perhaps indicates more changes down the road.

The Blazers have even started pulling together an insurance policy in case Oden doesn’t work out. They signed veteran Marcus Camby at the end of last seson and just picked up free agent Frabricio Oberto last week. For Oden, like many members of the current Blazers organization, it’s time for the waiting to end and the moving forward to start.

Roy is ready to step up to the next level of stardom and leadership. Aldridge has put on muscle and will average 10 rebounds this season. Coach Nate McMillan is ready to loosen the reigns and take the team out of the first round of the playoffs. The Blazers are going to run more.

We’ve heard it all before. The problem is that we’re still waiting for our names to be called. ?