How could you not be there in a time of need? The Trail Blazers need you. The NBA needs you. You were going to single-handedly win a title (maybe not quite single-handedly, not with LaMarcus Aldridge and good-luck charm Brandon Roy there). You were going to leverage your self-effacing, nice-guy, “shucks-I-know-I-look-50-years-old” humble Hoosier personality into megabucks endorsements and an image makeover for a team and a league that has reeled from bad publicity brought by knuckleheaded players — like Zach Randolph, the guy Portland shipped out to make room for you. You could save the NBA in the Pacific Northwest, where it lost Vancouver to organizational incompetency, and where it’s going to lose Seattle to organizational avarice. You are the only hope!
What are we supposed to do? Of course it’s not your fault that the pain in your right knee you started feeling sometime after the draft — the knee you don’t remember hurting — is going to keep you out for the year. Maybe you will be back next season. You haven’t even turned 21 yet, so there’s time to heal. But doctors, even though they’re positive about you, are throwing around scary words like “articular cartilage damage” and “microfracture surgery.”
Ask Jonathan Bender, who you watched with the Pacers while you grew up in Indianapolis, about cartilage damage in the knee — that made him an old man by your age. Ask Kenyon Martin, Kerry Kittles, Antonio McDyess, etc., about microfracture surgery. Sure, Amare Stoudemire, Jason Kidd and some others came back, but a lot of guys didn’t, or at least were never the same.
Can you blame Portland fans for panicking a little? Just a teensy bit? When they dreamed of you being the next Bill Walton, they didn’t think it meant watching you on the sideline in a suit and a cast. (Well, Walton was a hippie, and there was no David Stern to require suits, so maybe the comparison isn’t be so obvious. Just don’t wear tie-dyes and quote Grateful Dead lyrics, or it will be.)
PBT: San Antonio raced out to a 25-point lead at home, pushed back on Memphis’ big third-quarter run, shut down Zach Randolph and cruised to a 105-83 win.
Video: NBA from NBC Sports
Grizzlies ready for 'running' Spurs
DPS: Lionel Hollins tells us how he plans to play against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals.
Latest from ProBasketballTalk
Get your NBA cheer on
Check out some of the dancers from the NBA.