Twenty three years ago last spring, the Portland Trailblazers passed up a shooting guard because they already had Clyde Drexler. Instead they went with an oft-injured center named Sam Bowie. Today Bill Simmons and Seattle fans are celebrating (and very likely prematurely) Oden's demise. Even the Yahoo! Sports is sounding the Sam Bowie alarm. But, don't count Oden out quite yet.
The surgery is going to have one immediate effect on the Trailblazers — they're going to be worse this year than last. And probably a lot worse. Their roster has more young players than ever (always a bad sign for a team hoping to win), and they dealt away their one solid vet Zach Randolph to clear up space under the basket for Oden. Unfortunately, they don't have any other on-the-blocks players at the 4/5, just a collection of perimeter players that are complementary to the player they intended to be their cornerstone. So, whatever the over/under is on Portland's final win total, bet the under. In that conference only the Minnesota Celtics — errr, Timberwolves — stand between Portland and the bottom of the conference. The bright side is that they'll have another top 5 pick to either add someone like Michael Beasley or Jarryd Bayless to their roster. Or, if they're smart, use the pick in trade for a vet small forward to round out their roster (someone like Tayshaun Prince or Shawn Marion) and whatever else they can get.
For Oden this surgery has a few positives. For one, he's still young, and should make a full recovery. According to the official statement, the damage was slight, and the surgery will prevent bigger problems down the line (think Kenyon Martin or Darius Miles, who had the surgery long after their knees were already damaged). "He was found to have articular cartilage damage in his right knee," team physician Dr. Don Roberts said after performing the surgery. "The area of injury was not large and we were able to treat it with micro fracture, which stimulates the growth of cartilage."
For those of you unfamiliar with what microfracture surgery is, or desiring a fuller explanation than that provided by the Trailblazers' doctor, think back to when Amare Stoudemire had a similar problem. As Stan McNeal detailed in the article, articular cartilage is harder, yet more delicate than the knee's meniscus, and when it's damaged — exposing the bones in the knee and causing pain — it cannot regenerate.