Nate McMillan (10) and his Achilles tendon, in happier times.
Welcome to Trip City.
Yesterday, Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan ruptured his right Achilles tendon during practice, and it is a sign of how this season has stumbled out of the gate that the general reaction was not a horrified, Iverson-style
?" but a feeling that this event was not only predictable but inevitable. The coach is missing the four-game road trip for surgery? Of course. Of course he is.
Since the Blazers opened the season with a win over these Houston Rockets (and the water buffalo pelt that Luis Scola uses as a ritual headdress), the team has gone 11-8 and is tied for second place in the Northwest division, 2 1/2 games back of the Nuggets. These perfectly nice facts do nothing to change the feeling that this club is in serious trouble. If the Blazers season were a Dr. Scholls commercial, it would go like this:
MAN #1: Hey, dudes, are you gellin'?
The offseason trade for Andre Miller is all but officially a failure. Brandon Roy doesn't like his new teammate, so the Blazers are trading him.
But Greg Oden does like 'Dre. (It is in fact entirely possible that Oden likes Miller a lot more than he likes Roy, because Miller passes Oden the ball, while Roy still feels qualms from an entire season of playing with Mr. McButterhands.) So the departure of Miller, the one man who could make Greg Oden smile, is not necessarily going to heal the divides that have ruptured the team like...well, the metaphor goes without saying, right?
Also, beautiful boy Rudy Fernandez is out with Sciatic pain. In English, this means he has a pain in the ass. Or possibly the leg. Whatever. He doesn't really speak English.
On the plus side, the team is debuting its '77 NBA Championship throwback jerseys. So if this game turns into another cause for despair, at least we can pretend it isn't happening now.
All right, enough doomsaying. I'm going to rise for the National Anthem now. Back in a minute.
8:43 -- These old-school threads are
very sexy. They do not make Steve Blake (Brandon Roy's favorite mediocre point guard) a better rebounder. He's badly out-muscled under the basket.
7:45 -- Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit.
7:45 -- Greg Oden, defending an Aaron Brooks rainbow shot, crumples to the ground clutching his left knee. Three minutes later, and he's still down. Ever heard a room of 20,000 people gasp in unison, then go dead silent? Now you have.
7:45 -- They're bringing out the stretcher. The crowd gives Greg a standing ovation. He is wheeled, sitting with both legs outstretched, into the tunnel. On the Jumbotron, he looks like he's about to cry.
5:10 -- Meanwhile, we have to play a basketball game, though the crowd's heart isn't really in it anymore. LaMarcus Aldridge wakes everybody up with a corner three. 11-11.
3:15 -- Brandon Roy throws up a prayer of a three, and is answered with a foul. He hits all three shots. Speaking of prayers, that's what everybody in the Rose Garden is doing right now. 16-15, Blazers.
2:00 -- I'm going to take a break from play-by-play and try to process what we just saw. And what we saw, unless it's something other than what it looked like, was something out of a horror movie: The Thing We Most Feared happening right in front of us, in a home game, on a weekend, four minutes into the game. It's so blunt, so cruel, that it doesn't seem plausible. Bill Simmons (and I hate to bring him up right now, but there it is) wrote last month about how watching the Rose Garden root for Oden is like watching 20,000 dads root for the same son. Well, this was like watching that son get hit by a car.
12:00 -- The Jumbotron images of Bill Walton are not helping.
11:15 -- The media guy handing out first quarter stat sheets (Greg Oden: 0 points, 3 rebounds, 4 minutes and 15 seconds) says Oden is still in the building and has not been taken to the hospital. That's good news, right?
7:35 -- So there's still a game happening, and the Blazers are winning it. Jerryd Bayless, who apparently has his own cartoon avatar that looks like a Frank Miller ripoff, is being all Bayless-y and driving to the rim a lot. Then he's stepping back and hitting a pretty fadeaway. 31-29, Blazers.
6:33 -- Shane Battier knocks down a three, and the Rockets lead by exactly that much. If this is the lineup for the duration of the season (and please, please, somebody tell me it's not), look forward to a lot of teams gunning for the paint with the enthusiasm and speed of Christopher Humphreys when he sees a 12-year-old girl riding the MAX. The Rockets do not have a center to speak of, and they're having no trouble. Also, our offense now prominently features Juan Howard.
4:43 -- B.Roy is flying all over the court -- he just executed a spectacular under the basket finger-roll -- and the Blazers still trail 41-34. It's Throwback Classic Night, and I want to Throw Up.
2:54 -- It's 46-36 Houston, and I'm sure McMillan would be on his feet screaming at the team to wake up, if McMillan could stand. [Ed. note: McMillan actually can stand up, and walk, even; this is hyperbole.]
2:21 -- Ben Golliver of blazersedge.com, who was sitting next to me until Oden was injured then hurried off to milk his sources, has word
that Oden has been taken to the Rebound Clinic for an MRI. He also takes pains to note, as I have not, that the left knee is the knee Oden has not injured before. He also has a photo of Oden being wheeled off the court.
:27.5 -- The Blazers are making a little run, and then a little fast-break, which ends with Jerryd Bayless getting flagrantly fouled on his way to the rim. He makes one of two. 48-43, Rockets.
Blazers have pulled within three, 48-45. I'm going to walk down to the media room and find out what I can.
Word in the media room is that Greg Oden has a fractured left kneecap ("It broke in half," says a staffer) and is done for the season.
9:55 -- It's official. Here's the announcement from the team: "C Greg Oden An MRI confirms a fractured left patella. Will undergo surgery to repair. Surgery date TBA. Likely out for the season." Blazers Edge reports that Kevin Pritchard is scheduled to address the media after the game.
8:03 -- Steve Blake just hit a three... to pull the Blazers within nine. This is going to be a long, terrible season. And that's the optimistic version. The pessimistic version is that this is going to be a long, terrible season that puts the Blazers so far behind the other developing young teams that we waste the best years of Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge's careers.
4:43 -- Andre Miller hits a jumper, then one of two foul shots. 59-57, Rockets. So is it still a good idea to trade Miller? Would it really do any good to try to improve this season's Blazers? Am I in the bargaining or depression stage of grieving? I can't tell.
2:09 -- Here's video
of the Oden injury. Look closely and you can see a second gunman in section 107.
:1.5 -- Miller knocks down two straight jumpers to pull the Houston lead to 69-68 going into the fourth. Miller's carrying this team through the second half; I think he may be the only Blazer who isn't feeling the weight of history squatting on his knees. What's Andre got to worry about? He isn't going to be here after Dec. 15.
11:20 -- The Blazers immediately snag the lead back, which is impressive considering it seems like they've been down 10 for most of the game, and they feel like they never want to be near another sporting event ever again. Or maybe I'm projecting. 72-71, Blazers.
8:00 -- Bill Simmons has Tweeted
his sympathies: "So sorry Rip City. Sad night."
6:50 -- LaMarcus feeds Brandon a gorgeous pass for a layup. The Blazers offense is humming when it's not committing offensive fouls. 77-76, Rockets.
6:24 -- Throwback jerseys for sale! Who wouldn't want a shirt with which to remember this night?
5:38 -- Gotta give this crowd a lot of credit for staying in the game. Granted, the PA announcer hasn't mentioned the whole "gone for the season" thing, and I've overheard fans telling each other "Nobody knows anything" long after we knew way too much. But most of these people have PDAs, right? 79-78, Rockets.
2:52 -- Aldridge hits another clutch jumper, and Joel
Przybilla draws a charge. 82-81, 'Zers.
2:12 -- Aaron Brroks throws the ball away (that's what you get for breaking Greg Oden's glass knees!) but B.Roy is called for charging on the resultant fast break. He does not believe he charged. 84-83, Blazers.
1:08 -- Przybilla whistled for fouling Carl Landry under the Rockets basket, and Houston will get two shots for the lead. Hey, remember that time Greg Oden missed those two foul shots that could've beaten Denver? That was a much better day than this one. I miss that big lug so much, I'm nostalgic for his bad plays.
:37.9 -- Landry hits his shots, but Brandon slices to the middle (the Rockets don't have a center) and gives the Blazers the lead back. The Rockets miss a shot but get the rebound (the Blazers don't have a center) and Landry hits two more charity buckets. 87-86, Rockets.
:29.4 -- Magnificent dribble-drive and pull-up jumper by Roy. 88-87, Blazers. Crowd going crazy. Wouldn't it be amazing if Greg Oden came running onto the court right now? Wouldn't it be amazing if he hadn't broken his kneecap?
:3.0 -- Scola and his musk ox hairpiece nail a fadeway from 20 feet. Then it's Brandon, slicing, out of control, putting up a crazy banker... that rattles in! 90-89, Blazers! I care again! I care again!
0:00 -- Brooks drives, it looks like he's fouled... No call! Blazers win! The crowd goes home happy... at least until they turn on the radio and hear about that kneecap. The win is nice. It's like adding some delicious butter frosting to a cake made of human turds.
So that's that. That's that. Jesus. I'm going to stop by the Pritchard press conference (look for further coverage on Monday) and then go sing some karaoke while trying not to think of Greg Oden with his head on a towel, trying not to cry.
I would advise you to start drinking heavily.