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IMAGE: Mike Perrault
The Portland Trail Blazers kicked off training camp this week after an offseason of general manager Kevin Pritchard being told to leave, Rudy Fernandez wanting to leave and Greg Oden on seemingly endless injury leave.
Here’s what we learned at media day Monday about the upcoming season, which begins Oct. 26, when the Blazers host Phoenix, the team that knocked Portland out of the first round of the playoffs—again—last season.
The Worst Injury Report: Greg Oden
Portland’s gentle giant with a penchant for amateur self-photography has been on the bench for half of the 164 games the past two seasons due to injury. And initial indications this year are the 7-foot center will continue to disappoint. “I can’t play [yet],” says Oden, who’s in the final year of his three-year rookie contract. “I need to feel as comfortable as I can.” Scarier yet, Oden says he can’t even give a time frame for when he might be healthy again. “My body’s not there yet,” he says.
The Best Injury Report: Brandon Roy
The undeniable leader of the Blazers, Roy begins his fifth season with his own health questions. He ended last season limping through a knee injury in the Blazers’ first-round playoff loss, an early exit that ended any chance Pritchard would return as GM. “I wouldn’t say I’m in the best shape of my life,” Roy says five months later. “But I would say I’m in the best shape going into a training camp.” He also seems prepared for back pains ahead—from carrying this team. “I can play great, but I have to get the rest of these guys to play great,” he says. Speaking of which….
Most Likely To Weigh Heavily On Roy’s Back: LaMarcus Aldridge
Aldridge, who is 6-foot-11 but prefers the fadeaway jumper to using his height in the key, says he gained another 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason after hiring a personal trainer who also works with the Cowboys in Aldridge’s hometown of Dallas. The idea, of course, is that more weight equals more toughness. This is the second year Aldridge has promised big muscle gains in the summer. Sadly, the L-Train looks the same to us.
Most Likely To Get A Mom Tattoo: Rudy Fernandez
After he threatened to sit out the remaining two years of his contract unless he was traded, we were surprised to see Fernandez in Portland, much less at a press conference. He arrived 30 minutes late to media day after his agent announced he might be holed up in his hotel. Then, the 25-year-old Spanish phenom made short, well-coached statements listing homesickness and problems with the physical toll of NBA-style basketball as reasons for his unhappiness. “I prefer to stay with my mom,” Fernandez said in English. Ultimately, Fernandez hopes to be released from his contract to return to Europe and finish his career there. He says he won’t sign an extension with any other team in the NBA and that he’ll honor his contract with the Blazers. Whoopee!
Most Likely To Get A Mom Tattoo, Runner-Up: Wesley Matthews
Matthews, one of the rare undrafted free-agent success stories, signed a five-year, $34 million contract with the Blazers in July after scoring 9.4 points per game last year for Utah. In a league notorious for spending excess, we were excited to know what Matthews spent his lottery-level fortune on. His big purchases? “I got a house back home. I got my mom a car, retired my mom. Nothing big,” he said. If you’re counting, he says his mother—former University of Wisconsin basketball and track star Pam Moore, who won the national title in the 400 meters in 1981—just went from three jobs to zero. Way to set the bar high for Mother’s Day.