The top pick in the June draft went in for an exploratory
procedure on his right knee and ended up having microfracture
surgery, which means he will sit out the season.
"Greg looked at me as he was coming out of his surgery, and he
and his mom Zoe probably said 'sorry' 20 times," Blazers general
manager Kevin Pritchard said. "I could feel the weight of the
world on his shoulders. And as a leader and as leaders of this
organization, my first thought was how lucky we were to have a guy
that cares about the organization that much."
Dr. Don Roberts performed the surgery to repair the damage,
which Pritchard described as the size of a fingertip. Oden is
expected to be on crutches for up to eight weeks. Full recovery
likely will take six to 12 months, the team said.
"At this point in time, we don't see him coming back this
season," Pritchard said.
Oden was the No. 1 pick in the June draft out of Ohio State,
where he averaged 15.7 points and 9.6 rebounds.
The loss of Oden before the season was a blow to the
organization. There was much fanfare when the Blazers got the first
pick in the draft, and even more when the team chose Oden.
A huge, stories-tall jersey with the name Oden and a No. 1 hangs
on the Rose Garden Arena. Across the street, a building is
plastered with a huge billboard proclaiming "The Road Back to Rip
City" with larger-than-life photos of Oden and teammates Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge.
"To know that Greg wouldn't be with us, it was disappointing,"
coach Nate McMillan said. "I was really looking forward to working
with him, and developing this team. You know we will still get that
opportunity, but it will just come a year from now."
It was Oden's second health problem since the Trail Blazers
drafted him. He had a tonsillectomy in July after struggling in two
Las Vegas summer league games.
Oden recovered and had been working out in the Portland area.
The MRI was taken Thursday after he had some swelling in the knee,
and Oden refrained from working out over the weekend.
Despite being hampered by a wrist injury at Ohio State, Oden led
the Buckeyes to the national championship game as a freshman. He
had 25 points and 12 rebounds in the loss to Florida.
The Trail Blazers were the surprise winners of the NBA draft
lottery, and chose Oden over Texas forward Kevin Durant, who went
Pritchard said Oden had MRIs on both knees before the draft and
they were "pristine."
"We picked the right kid; he cares about his organization. And
I can't [overemphasize] how bad he felt, and not because he had to
go through the rehab and all that, but because he felt like he let
us down," Pritchard said. "And he hasn't let us down at all."
Dr. Roberts said the area of injury was not large and doctors
were able to treat it with microfracture, which stimulates the
growth of cartilage. Other high-profile players who have undergone
the procedure include Jason Kidd, Amare Stoudemire and former Blazer Zach Randolph, who was traded to the Knicks in the offseason.
Oden talked about the injury earlier this week in his blog. He
said he had a sharp pain about a month ago when he was on vacation.
"I didn't tell anyone because I didn't want to seem like I was
complaining or making excuses for anything. Plus I wasn't doing
anything at the time I realized it hurt, so I figured it couldn't
be anything big," he wrote.
Portland opens training camp Oct. 2. It kicks off the NBA's regular season at San Antonio on Oct. 30 and finishes at Phoenix on April 16 -- two weeks after Oden could be fully recovered within the Blazers' best-case scenario announced Thursday.
Oden could become only the second player in the draft (between 1966 and the present) to be selected No. 1 overall and not play in the year of his selection. David Robinson was drafted by San Antonio in 1987 but instead honored his naval commitment.
While the loss of Oden was a disappointment, the Blazers were
quick to point out that the team still has promising young players
in Roy, last season's NBA Rookie of the Year who averaged 16.8 points per game, and Aldridge, who
will likely play at times at center in Oden's absence.
Joel Przybilla started 43 games at center last season for Portland and could be Oden's replacement in the lineup. Guard Jarrett Jack and forward James Jones would form the remainder of the team's starting five.
"This isn't about one person, never has been, never will be,"
Pritchard said. "This is about a team, about 15 guys going out
there with a single vision, a single purpose."
Information from The Associated Press and ESPN's research department was used in this report.