I can't remember exactly where I was on October 12, 2005, but I can clearly recall that sinking feeling I had when I read that Amare Stoudemire--who had just signed a maximum contract only a week before--would have to undergo microfracture surgery at the tender age of 22. In that one moment, all those soaring hopes for a championship run came crashing down into the ultimate sports fan pit of despair. But once the initial shock passed, I found myself with two thoughts:
- There was no way Amare would be back (or even should be back) for the 2005-06 season, no matter how many optimists were saying otherwise.
- There was no way the Suns wouldn't make the playoffs, whether Amare returned that season or not.
As most people reading this probably already know, Portland Trailblazers fans had their own version of October 12, 2005 today when they found out newly-drafted franchise center Greg Oden underwent microfracture surgery under circumstances that are eerily similar to Amare's. I am hesitant to even attempt adding anything to the excellent words of Blazer's Edge writer Dave, but I will offer a few thoughts on the aftermath of my own experience as a fan on the receiving end of such devastating news. While obviously it would have been great to have Amare for the 2005-06 season (and it very well could have been a championship year had he been available), there is absolutely no doubt that our team gave us a season to remember in spite of his absence. I have said here many times that the 2005-06 Suns were probably my favorite sports team ever. With everyone betting against them, our guys showed a level of resolve and heart that I don't think I have seen before or since. As bad as it seems (and is) right now in Portland, this is a great opportunity for Blazers fans to experience something similar, albeit on a slightly different scale. There have been reports that practically the entire Blazers team has already started voluntary workouts together, and that they have been at it since August. They are young and inexperienced, but it sounds like they have a level of determination comparable to what our Suns did in that Amare-less season. Will it get them to the playoffs? It seems unlikely, though stranger things have certainly happened. But regardless of how their season ends, I do think they'll be a team their fans can be proud of. And with the attitude their players have demonstrated thus far, there's no question their future is a bright one.