HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We will understand if Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan spends the rest of his days looking over his shoulder, avoiding cracks in the sidewalk wherever he walks and ducking for cover at the sign of a cat any shade other than albino.
We’re just as confused here at the hideout as McMillan must be in regards to what he and the Trail Blazers have done to incur the wrath of the basketball gods the way they have the past two seasons.
Now comes word that Brandon Roy, who was already out indefinitely, will have an arthroscopic procedure on both knees next week. McMillan should have requested Ashton Kutcher deliver the news, as opposed to whatever member of the beleaguered Trail Blazers’ athletic training staff had to deliver the crushing news.
Roy’s knees give the Trail Blazers a total of seven knees that have cost players their seasons, or at least large chunks of the season. Greg Oden is out for the season after having microfracture knee surgery. Second-yard forward Jeff Pendergraph injured his knee and required season-ending surgery. And rookie guard Elliot Williams has undergone surgery this season on both knees. Veteran center Joel Pryzbilla is working his way into normal shape after missing 26 games recovering from offseason knee surgery.
Dan Gilbert and LeBron James toss the word “karma” around without knowing the true dark side of the word. Folks in Portland know all too well what the wrong side of that coin can do to a team’s hopes and dreams.
We cost ourselves any chance at a key to the city in July, when I predicted the Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets would have to scrap for that eighth and final playoff spot, considering both teams had lingering health issues that would affect them this season (don’t worry, we have long since forgiven everyone in Portland and Houston for all the wicked name calling and taunting):
This is not some cop-out for the 8th spot. We are really torn between the Trail Blazers, who proved last season that they could be a playoff team in the face of severe adversity caused by injuries, and the Rockets, who were scrappy but could not reach a playoff level in the face of similar adversity. Yao Ming is far more crucial to the Rockets’ cause at this stage of his career than Greg Oden (and to a lesser extent Joel Pryzbilla) is to the Trail Blazers’ cause at this stage of his fledgling career. Without all the injury drama we could see both of these teams surpassing some of the teams ranked ahead of them here — a healthy Yao is good for another 10-15 wins on his own, isn’t he? The Blazers did have their best player last season. All-Star shooting guard Brandon Roy is still one of the league’s most difficult matchups, provided his knee is sound. And there is a solid and veteran supporting cast around him, whether Oden and Pryzbilla are ready to play at a high level or not. The Rockets have an improving mix of youngsters and several solid veterans on the roster that will allow Rick Adelman more flexibility this season compared to what he had to work with last season. The addition of Brad Miller gives the Rockets a skilled big with experience playing in Adelman’s system. And we’re expecting an immediate impact from high-energy rookie Patrick Patterson. Again, we won’t be surprised if both of these teams are sitting in the top eight by season’s end.
It’s not always fun being right, or reasonably close to it.
But you have to admit, we nailed this one. The Trail Blazers are clinging to that eighth spot right now. The Rockets are three games back. And the same injury issues that plagued both teams a year ago are back again.
“I’m trying to do the best thing I can to get back on the floor,” Roy said in a statement Thursday. “We’ve been able to get a number of different opinions and it’s something we’ve decided.”
If this is some sort of cosmic payback for the “Jail Blazers” era, we all get the point.
The ghost of Dr. Naismith wins again.