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And Another Thing

File / Associated Press

O unlucky man

Well, this is unwelcome news.

Greg Oden must surely be the unluckiest man, not just in the NBA, but in just about any other walk of life you want to name. Since the Portland Trailblazers made him the first pick in the 2007 NBA draft, he's played exactly 82 games, or one full NBA season. He hasn't played in an NBA game since December 2009.

Now, with a third microfracture surgery on one of his knees, you've got to wonder if this is it for him. You've got to wonder if he might just hang it up rather than risk not being able to walk by the time he's 40.

If so, he'll go down as a monumental bust, which is unfortunate. Exposed on the few times he did play as an imposing specimen whose desire was questionable, he always seemed like someone trapped by his physical gifts in a pursuit he simply didn't like all that much.

I don't think that's an inaccurate read. And I have reasons for thinking so.

See, I met Oden when he was a 16-year-old man-child playing for Lawrence North, and already he seemed uncomfortable with the attention his basketball abilities were bringing him. On the afternoon I talked to him at Memorial Coliseum -- Lawrence North had come up to play Snider -- he was polite and soft-spoken, but clearly ill at ease at being singled out. The fact that there were kids his own age standing outside the locker room wanting to get his autograph only intensified that unease.

Imagine, after all, if you were 16 years old and your peers, rather than behaving like peers, behaved around you as if you were Kobe or LeBron or MJ. Now imagine that you weren't really all that in love with what placed you in such an odd and exalted position to begin with.

Oden always struck me that way. His deference to his teammates on the floor was always held up by his coach and others as evidence of his natural unselfishness, but what if it was more than that? What if it was Oden's way of trying to deflect some of the over-the-top attention?

Just a thought. And one I've had more than once watching Oden's odyssey over the years.

Ben Smith's blog.