PORTLAND, OR—Although Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan has repeatedly warned his team about using the basketball around "valuable" and "really fragile" center Greg Oden, several players accidentally knocked the seven-footer to the floor with a carelessly thrown ball Thursday and shattered him into a thousand pieces.
"Oh, man, if Coach sees this we're gonna be in so much trouble," Blazers guard Brandon Roy told reporters while sifting through broken sections of Oden's legs, arms, head, and torso. "We're not gonna be able to play basketball anymore or go out or do anything."
"I can't believe it," Roy added. "The ball barely touched him."
According to team sources, Roy, point guard Andre Miller, and forwards Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge picked up a basketball in the Blazers practice facility and started bouncing it near Oden, an exquisite but easily broken player Portland purchased in 2008 for $6.7 million.
As the teammates continued to fool around, their play reportedly grew riskier and more aggressive, with players dribbling the basketball very close to the delicate center and passing it dangerously close to his body and over his head. At one point several Blazers approached Oden while wiggling their fingers very close to him, saying "I'm a dainty little center that nobody's allowed to touch" in a mocking tone of voice, and pretending to drop him on the hardwood floor.
Sources confirmed that after an errant pass from Miller careened off Roy's fingertips and hit Oden's shoulder, Oden teetered from side to side for a tense moment—during which unbelieving players found themselves unable to move—before toppling to the ground just out of reach of a diving Roy.
The team reportedly stared silently at the broken pieces of Oden for several seconds until Roy said, "We're dead. We are so dead."
"Don't look at me like that, Andre," he added upon noticing Miller staring at him. "You threw that pass. This is as much your fault as it is mine."
"Coach said to always be careful around Greg, because Greg costs a lot and even the slightest amount of basketball can damage him," said Batum, who has been charged with making sure teammate Sean Marks doesn't see the broken Oden because Marks "would tell on us in a second." "Man, why didn't we just listen to Coach? That was his favorite center. Shoot. Shoot. Shoot."
After gathering the larger parts of Oden that were still somewhat intact and sweeping up the tiny pieces of his shattered face into a dustpan, the players hit upon the idea of replacing the former No. 1 draft pick with teammate Marcus Camby or perhaps retired Boston Celtic Robert Parish. However, they quickly but reluctantly agreed that McMillan would definitely know the difference.
Power forward Dante Cunningham suggested replacing Oden with retired center Shawn Bradley and was immediately told to "just leave."
Working from a picture of Oden hanging in the team's front office, the players proceeded to reassemble the center with superglue and Scotch tape. Though they were adamant it was the best they could do on such short notice, the plan has had its setbacks.
"LaMarcus glued Greg's left eye on upside down, and his one arm was hanging 5 inches lower than the other until we kind of hitched it up with some staples," said guard Rudy Fernandez, who ended up helping after Roy threatened to tell McMillan that Fernandez was the one who accidentally threw rookie Elliot Williams out with the trash last week. "Also, to get these surgery scars on his knees to match up exactly is just impossible."
"Wait, guys," Fernandez continued. "Greg had five fingers on his left hand, right?"
The players estimated they had two hours to put Oden back together before McMillan returned from a performance of Die Fledermaus, his favorite opera, with assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff. McMillan called to check in with the team at intermission and Roy said that everything was "just fine" and that "Greg Oden is doing especially great, and everything is perfect with him and there's nothing to worry about at all in terms of Greg Oden. Why would there be anything to worry about? Don't you trust us? Geez, Mr. McMillan. Bye."
"We're so dead," Roy repeated after hanging up the phone.
With time running out, the players had roughly reassembled their teammate, figuring that given Oden's track record of injuries, McMillan might not be able to tell that the center was missing an elbow or that his jersey was concealing several large cracks in his chest.
"I have a friend who plays for the Celtics, and he said Shaq's body shatters all the time," Camby said. "So the plan is, the next time that happens, he'll gather the extra body parts we need and send them to us. We have time. It's not like Greg was going to be playing basketball soon, anyway."
At press time, McMillan had entered the gym, glanced at his center, and shrugged before turning to leave and slipping on one of Oden's vertebrae.