Meanwhile, Up At The Leisure Factory
The news is true, and I guess I should be hunched over in stunned disbelief. This does have eerie similarities to Amare, whose abrupt bow-out from '05-06 pained me like few things in this world have. At the same (sorry to reprise something I already told AOL), there's no way this matches that catastrophe. At the time of his injury, Amare was the most delirium-inducing entity in all of the NBA. His playoffs had reduced the most polite men to clothes-renting and bloody foam in the eyes; Stoudemire was poised to give us years of drug-like mayhem and bliss.
Oden, he's yet to even set foot in a second of NBA gametime. We have no feelings for him, beyond the vague sense that he'll benefit the sport; in fact, after a muted freshman campaign notable mostly for one big, bad dunk attempt, the buzz on Oden had mostly to do with his thoroughly engaging personality. On top of all that, he was never going to revolutionize the game. I know that Dwight Howard's a popular guy around here, but he's dull as sin to watch, fast-twitch or no fast-twitch. While Oden may have the motor skills of a guard, make no mistake: He is an orthodox seven-footer, the kind of player everyone wants but no one dreams about.
So while Oden's lowers upon us a mightly symbolic void, I don't feel like anything has been stolen from my bosom, or forcibly unhooked from deep within my heart. Maybe this makes me immature; I also never bother to check how the stock market affects my savings. Or, perhaps, we need to acknowledge that big men like Oden are very much like investments: even at their most glamorous, they will never send the same frisson through us that fleeting bills and coins can. They are more secure, and the right move, and all that. But there's a not-so-fine gulf between even the least responsible dabbling and tossing stacks up to see where they fall.
What this means, then, is that waiting for Oden will not mean the end of the world. The big man narrative isn't going anywhere; it can not be antiquated, outmoded, or otherwise tarnished by progress. Most importantly, though, Oden was never going to surprise us. We could already imagine what dominant Greg Oden would look like; we have also already seen far too many times how a seven-footer goes bust. He would make the Blazers very happy, and enhance the NBA's credibility. Really, though, he wasn't going to teach us anything about the game. And now, he'll sit on the shelf maturing like a very tall African-American bond. When he arrives, we'll appreciate his contribution that much more, because we'll have spent all these months calmly, knowingly prepared for it. If Amare, a far less orthodox big man, could be First Team All-NBA post-microfracture, the outlook is hardly bleak for Oden.
Contrast this with Durant, whose debut should already have all of us scraping the walls with anticipation. We need some answer to the wide-open possibility that is Durant, so that our conversation about him can at least begin in earnest. Right now, he's like a trillion dollars buried off on a desert shore by a pirate who may or may not have seven eyes. No expectation is too outlandish, for we have no idea how successful he'll be: or for that matter, what the fuck he'll even look like out there. Greg Oden is timeless, drawing his sustenance from the tradition. Durant is a dispatch from undiscovered lands, whose mercurial path through the league will write its own tale. That's the one we can't even begin to imagine, and thus, the one we need to hear right away.