Blazers Press Conference a PR Stunt?

First off, I’m completely devastated to hear that Greg Oden will not be playing a single game this season because of another microfracture surgery on dock to repair damage to his left knee. Marred by injuries, the former number one draft pick has played an equivalent of only one season (82 games) in his four seasons in the NBA. To put things in perspective, Kevin Durant — selected right after Oden — has played in 247 games. I’m not going to write about Oden and his injuries and what this means to him as a person and player, and what it means to the Blazers. You can read that elsewhere. Like here, here, and here. What I do want to talk about was my initial reaction to the press conference that was held Wednesday night.

The press conference began with Jim Taylor, director of basketball communications for the Blazers (and someone whom I’ve met in the past) giving an introduction to the media. Soon after, Team President Larry Miller gave a brief statement over the phone regarding the entire situation. Miller also went out of his way to praise the “respected training and medical staff” that the Blazers are fortunate to have. Nate McMillan, Blazers head coach, also talked about the medical staff and specifically Jay Jensen, head athletic trainer for the Blazers. For some of the remarks made during the press conference, visit iamatrailblazersfan.com.

Prior to the mic being handed over Jensen, the thought of this press conference being a PR stunt to defend the Blazers’ medical and training staff came to mind. Oden aside, the truth is the players — and even the coach — have missed A LOT of games due to injuries. Last regular season, games missed due to injury or illness totaled 311 — second most in the NBA. When bad things happen, it’s naturally for people to start pointing fingers. For the past couple of months, the finger pointing has been directed at the medical and training staff…specifically Jensen.

Hey, I admit it. I’m one of those Blazers fan who thinks Jensen is to blame. Jokingly or not, Jensen has been the target because as the head athletic trainer, Jensen plays a major role in the overall health of the players. However, my attitude toward Jensen took an immediate 180 degree turn after the press conference.

Jensen, in his 14th season in the NBA and eighth with Portland, almost broke down in tears. He talked about the specifics of Oden’s injury — going off in a bunch of medical terms such as “chondral type of defect” and “infusion of the knee.” I was kinda glad a reporter asked Jensen to summarize in layman’s terms. But besides that, Jensen…well, he spoke from the heart. He talked about how Oden is like family to him…how it seemed like Oden had a room in his house. Jensen reflected on the hours and hours that he spent with Oden: swimming with him, going on bike rides, etc. He didn’t necessarily talk about Oden as a player rehabilitating his injuries, but as a person he and the whole Blazers organization truly cared about. After watching this video on NBA.com, I think a lot of people are rooting for Oden.

Near the end of the press conference, the floor opened up for questions from the media. As expected, there were some tough questions asked; ones that once again were aimed at the medical and training staff. I thought the questions asked by the media were tough but fair.

So was this press conference a PR stunt? There were signs in the beginning, but I don’t think so. A press conference is an event where news reporters and journalists are invited to hear representatives speak and have an opportunity to ask questions. Done and done. The Blazers representatives gave their talk and the media asked their questions. A press conference was held after each announcement of Oden needing surgery (argh, that’s sad…), and each event addressed certain concerns that naturally come to mind whether you’re a fan or in the media. Using this recent press conference — which would of been held anyways to address Oden’s surgery — the team discussed the unease surrounding Jensen and the medical and training staff.

So here we are, Oden-less once again. Now even All-Star Brandon Roy has his own problems. What began as the budding of a championship contender in 2007 with the three cornerstones in Roy, Oden, and LaMarcus Aldridge has now morphed into a free-fall of confidence in the Blazers team and organization.

The team motto use to be “Rise with Us” then more recently “Battle” and now…”Courage.” How much courage do we as fans have left in the tank? Like Oden, every courageous step we take may mean taking three steps back. Disappointment comes to mind. But with each drop of disappointment grows a large number of hope. Hopefully and optimistically, that number will involve 52 in a Blazers uniform on the court for years to come.

Update: Oden undergoes successful microfracture surgery.

Press Conference and Jay Jensen images courtesy of Trailblazers.com.
Oden Rally 2007 image courtesy of Flickr, tastyvu.

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