Some people can’t catch a break. Unfortunately, Greg Oden seems to catch one a year.
Oden was taken with the first pick in the 2007 draft, and hasn’t played a full season yet because of health. His most recent injury — a fractured knee cap that will likely end his season — led Chris Forsberg, a former Globie who’s now killing things over at the “worldwide leader,” to ask what if things had gone differently in the 2007 draft, and the Celtics landed the No. 1 pick instead of the fifth.
Forsbie points out that the Celtics had the numbers on their side — a 19.9 percent chance at landing the top pick, a 38.7 percent chance at No. 2 and a 55.8 percent shot at No. 3. The sky fell when they landed No. 5, but they turned it into Ray Allen, which led Kevin Garnett to reconsider coming here, which led to Banner 17.
Kendrick Perkins probably had the funniest story. He didn’t watch the draft at all that year, knowing that if Oden came in, he’d likely be on his way out. But during the Celtics championship run, Doc Rivers actually had one of the best lines when the “what if” question came up. Essentially, he said, if they had gotten the pick he’d be unemployed.
“If we would have got 1 or 2, I’d be interviewing somebody tonight for the game for ABC or TNT or somebody,” Rivers said.
Even with the outside pressure — some fans made replica Oden jerseys — the Celtics were likely thinking trade the whole way. And the plan obviously worked out. Oden’s situation is obviously unfortunate. A couple years back, when Oden suffered his first injury, the comparisons to Sam Bowie were instant. With Clyde Drexler in the backcourt, the Portland Trail Blazers took Bowie over Jordan in the 1984 draft, thinking he was the last piece. Injuries plagued Bowie most of his career. Jordan, of course, became Jordan.
Bowie played 10 seasons in the league, spending his best years with the Nets, before retiring after two injury-marred seasons with the Lakers. Marc Stein talked to him about Oden, and the conversation was eerie.
“When the whole thing developed with Portland [winning the lottery and getting to choose between Oden and Kevin Durant], you can imagine me reminiscing. But yesterday when I heard the news, it kind of froze me. I said to myself that Portland is right back in the situation where they were [in 1984]. I just hope that he fully recovers and turns out to be one of the best players ever.
“It’s easy to have hindsight. No one knew [at the time of the ’84 draft] that Michael was going to be the greatest to ever play the game. The Blazers had Clyde, so what they needed was a big man. They had also just traded for Kiki Vandeweghe, so looking at it they thought I was the last piece of the puzzle. If I had known that Michael was going to become the greatest player of all-time, I’d have chosen Michael over myself, too. That’s hindsight.”
When Oden came to Boston for the first time in December 2008, he knew what the potential could have been. He said, “A lot of people were always talking about me going to Boston. ‘That could have been you.’ If I would have gone there, that [Garnett] trade wouldn’t have happened.”