Greg Oden wants to play again

INDIANAPOLIS -- Greg Oden shares the fans' disappointment in the way his career has gone.

The 7-foot center was limited to just 82 games by injuries after the Portland Trail Blazers took him over Kevin Durant with the first selection in the 2007 draft. Portland waived the former No. 1 overall pick Thursday after an injury-plagued five-year run in which he averaged just 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots. He recently underwent his third microfracture knee surgery, the second on his left knee, ending his season.

"He feels bad for Portland and the team, more than anything, more than he did for himself," Oden's agent, Mike Conley Sr., said Friday. "He felt he could have made an impact, and he knows they were counting on him."

Oden's knee problems have drawn comparisons to Sam Bowie, the injury-plagued post the Blazers took ahead of Michael Jordan in 1984. Bowie played in 76 games as a rookie but appeared in just 63 games over the next four seasons because of injuries. In all, he had five operations. That history has made Oden's situation a particularly sore topic for the Trail Blazers, who also have had to deal with Brandon Roy's premature retirement due to injury.

"It is kind of closing the chapter on Greg Oden," Blazers interim general manager Chad Buchanan said. "Between Brandon Roy, Greg Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge, we had kind of built the team around those three. We've lost Brandon to retirement, and we've lost Greg to injury -- and we have nothing to show for it. We don't have an asset, we don't have a draft pick, we don't have a player. And that's hard to come back from."

Oden isn't quite ready to give up yet. Conley says his client is recovering in his hometown of Indianapolis. Oden has been on crutches since the Feb. 20 procedure and is expected to remain on them for another five weeks.

He said Oden briefly contemplated ending his career.

"That at some point could become a reality, and you have no control over it, so you have to think about it," Conley said. "He's one of the strongest willed guys I know. He's come back from every injury he's had 100 percent before another one happened. It took a lot of focus and dedication to come back from these injuries, and he'll come back from this one. I have no doubt about that."

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Oden's latest injury is that all seemed well.

He thought he might be able to play this season, but a checkup before the start of training camp in December reportedly revealed concerns about a non-weight-bearing ligament in the left knee. He was undergoing a minor procedure last month to clear out debris in his left knee when the surgeon said there was additional damage that required microfracture surgery. Oden had been jumping and starting to feel close to normal before the latest setback.

"It's very difficult for him," Conley said. "I think he's in a better place now than he was when he first learned about this new injury."

Conley said Oden is contemplating a return to school during rehab -- he played one college season at Ohio State. He shouldn't have too much trouble finding employment if he recovers. Several teams showed interest in him in March, despite knowing he wouldn't be immediately available.

"Now that he finally has the ability to take over his rehab himself, he's just going to focus on getting through the surgery and doing the things to try to avoid the things happening in the future," Conley said. "When he's healthy and he's back doing the things he knows he can do on the floor, then we'll look at NBA options and teams at that point."

Oden will be an unrestricted free agent if he clears waivers on Saturday. Conley said he fielded at least one call from a team during the waiver period.

Conley said Oden has expressed interest in playing for the hometown Pacers after he recovers.

"I know Greg would love to play in Indy," Conley said. "I know that's something he'd definitely be interested in. But in my conversations with Greg, we're not even thinking or talking about basketball right now."