The Sixth Man: Ziegler piles on unlucky Blazers

No one has handled adversity quite like the Portland Trail Blazers.

A seemingly never ending series of injuries to what were supposed to be the franchise's two cornerstones, Brandon Roy and Greg Oden, never kept the Blazers from the postseason.

In 2011-12, however, Portland is about to bow out early after pulling the plug on the two players that, if they could have stayed healthy, certainly had the type of pure talent to carry the organization to its first world championship since 1976-77.

In December 2011, the Blazers used their amnesty clause on Roy, a former All-Star with degenerative knee problems forced into retirement. Three months later, Portland finally cut ties with Oden after he his fifth knee surgery in five seasons with the club.

Now, down 4 1/2 games for the Western Conference's final playoff spot with just seven games to play, the Blazers suffered a virtual death blow to their slim playoff hopes when it was announced that All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge will undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right hip.

Aldridge, a first-time NBA All-Star this season, averaged a team-high 21.7 points to go with 8.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game in 55 contests -- all starts. He shot 51.2 percent from the field and 81.4 percent from the foul line, both career highs.

"In his most recent MRI, and following further evaluation, it's been determined that LaMarcus has a slight labral tear and will require arthroscopic surgery." said acting general manager Chad Buchanan.

On the surface, that looks like just another case of bad luck, but Aldridge previously underwent an MRI on the hip that showed no structural damage, according to the Blazers.

It's conceivable that the tear could have happened after the first MRI, but it's certainly curious that no warning signs were found.

Enter Zig Ziegler.

No not Dirk Diggler, the high school dropout in "Boogie Nights" who becomes the world's biggest porn star, or Dolph Ziggler. the Curt Hennig-like worker who should be a WWE main eventer, Zig Ziegler, the sports kinesiologist who has run a fitness assessment company called Motion DNA in Arizona.

Ziegler recently published a rather damning account of his professional relationship with the Blazers, which dates back to August 2008.

Ziegler claims he was contacted by then-Blazers assistant general manger Tom Penn to perform biomechanical evaluations of Oden in an attempt to determine whether the big man was ready to return for the 2008-2009 season.

He later performed similar tests on other members of the team, including Roy and Rudy Fernandez, but claims his recommendations were "laughed at" by the medical staff of the Trail Blazers, a group that is taking on water for some time.

So who's to blame here for all of these injuries to star players?

Forget Oden. He was just a star-crossed big man whose legs gave out at an early age, but the Roy and now Aldridge cases are worth examining.

Remember in the 2009-10 postseason, the Blazers were taking heavy criticism for putting Roy back on the court for a Game 4 in the Western Conference finals against Phoenix just eight days after surgery to repair torn meniscus in his right knee.

Team trainer Jay Jensen admitted to reporters at the time that doctors discovered there was almost no meniscus left to operate on, so no further damage could be done.

In hindsight, there are only a few reasonable explanations for Roy's quick return against the Suns back then -- either the Blazers ignored their own medical staff and put the health of their best player at risk, that same medical staff is incompetent, or knowing he had little time left -- the team let Roy make the decision.

The latter is the most plausible.

Dr. Don Roberts has been Portland's team orthopedist since 1994 and with a resume that boasts Stanford Medical School and a residency at Harvard, it's hard to paint him as an incompetent. Meanwhile, that was well after a massive deal given to Roy, a player who was a throwback of sorts and was never going to turn down an opportunity to get back on the floor.

As for Aldridge, remember he was sent to Vail, Colo., to see a specialist and seemed more than OK with the way things were handled.

"It's very smart to do right now because it's a very small tear right now, but if you play on it and you wait, it can become something major, so right now this is very smart to do," the Texas product said in an interview posted on the team's website.

Buchanan also made it clear that the priority was getting his All-Star healthy going forward into next season's training camp.

"LaMarcus' priority is that he's 100 percent healthy going into training camp this fall and we all feel this is the best course," Buchanan said. "He's had an All-Star year and his long-term health is the most important thing to consider."

Ziegler, however, is trying to paint himself as a concerned observer who could no longer keep quiet about the prevalent injuries cutting down various Blazers.

Problem is he's also trying to sell a service and a reality show. He also was recently arrested in Arizona along with two co-defendants on charges of the sale of unregistered securities and financial fraud.

"It's unfortunate that Mr. Ziegler would feel compelled to make such false claims and absurd statements," Buchanan said in a statement refuting Ziegler's charges. "It is also unacceptable that anyone who claims to be concerned with the health and well-being of our athletes would disclose their personal information.

"Our medical and training staff is one of the longest tenured and most highly respected in the league. Mr. Ziegler's comments appear to be motivated by his own desire for personal gain, which is not only irresponsible but also unprofessional."

It's always been hard to believe the Blazers front office was caught off base by a series of negligent or flat-out poor diagnoses and Ziegler's accusations have done little to change that.

It's always prudent to be prepared, work hard and hope for a little luck.

The Blazers, like most NBA teams, have handled the first two parts of that equation. Their luck, however, has been all bad.