HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden is losing yet another season to injury.
The horrible news came this evening, when the franchise announced that Oden underwent yet another microfracture surgery on his left knee earlier today.
What was supposed to be a routine procedure to clean debris out of his knee ended up costing the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft the entire 2011-12 season. Oden has had microfracture procedures on both knees, a fractured knee cap and these two surgeries this month, a diabolical cocktail for a player once believed to be the future of the franchise.
The team released the news via statement, explaining exactly how this latest twist came about:
“Initially, Greg was undergoing a procedure similar to the one he had a couple of weeks ago to have debris cleared from his right knee,” said Acting General Manager Chad Buchanan. “However, once the doctors were inside Greg’s left knee, they unfortunately found articular surface damage and determined microfracture was necessary.”
Oden, who will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, was selected by the Trail Blazers with the first overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. In 82 career games (60 starts), Oden has averaged 9.4 points (57.7% FG), 7.3 rebounds and 1.43 blocks in 22.1 minutes per game.
“This is not the news we were hoping for Greg or the organization,” said Trail Blazers President Larry Miller. “It’s hard to put into words the heartbreak for everyone involved, but especially for Greg. He’s a young man who has experienced a great number of physical challenges in his playing career and today is yet another significant setback for him. We have a lot of empathy for Greg and his family during this difficult time.”
I watched Oden play as a freshman in high school, and like most predicted a long and prosperous NBA future for the teenager who looked like a 40-year-old man then (complete with a full beard). He was the best high school freshman big man I’d seen in person since I watched Chris Webber as a freshman in high school. He was that dominant at a 14-year-old.
Never in a million years would I have imagined his career would be the injury-filled roller coaster it has become. Oden has played in just 82 games during his career, averaging 9.4 points and 7.3 rebounds. He hasn’t set foot in a game since Dec. 5, 2009. If he never makes another appearance, his story has already been written.
He’ll go down as one of the most snake-bitten No. 1 picks in the history of the NBA and any other professional league. I’ve heard some people complain that no one should feel any sympathy for a player who has made millions but never lived up to the hype that accompanied his rise to fame.
But I would argue that Oden’s tale is a bit different. This isn’t about a player that didn’t have the desire to be great. This is the tale of a player who never got the chance to chase that greatness because he didn’t have two good knees to stand on when the time came. And I can’t imagine a more cruel fate for any athlete who reached the level Oden did before his injuries started piling up.