Greg Oden's highly anticipated rookie campaign with the Portland Trail Blazers has been shelved for the 2007-08 season, after the No. — pick of this year's NBA draft underwent surgery Thursday on his right knee.
Oden is expected to be on crutches for up to eight weeks. Recovery will take six to 12 months, according to the Trail Blazers, but Oden's agent, Mike Conley Sr., said he would not return until the start of next season.
"I don't expect that he'll come back any earlier," Conley said in a telephone interview. "The fact of the matter is, he may be able to play basketball before a year, for sure. But Greg wants to come back at 100 percent. And that's going to take a year."
Team physician Don Roberts performed exploratory surgery on Oden's knee in Vancouver, Wash., Thursday and it revealed torn cartilage. The damage was then treated with microfracture surgery, a procedure that is designed to stimulate the growth of cartilage in the knee by creating tiny fractures in the adjacent bones.
Several high-profile NBA players have had the procedure performed on their knees, with mixed success. Chris Webber, Anfernee Hardaway and Jamal Mashburn had microfracture surgery but did not fully recover, while Jason Kidd, Amare Stoudemire and Zach Randolph have been able to recover from the procedure and continue playing at high levels.
"There are things about this that are positive for Greg," Roberts said. "First of all he is young. The area where the damage was is small and the rest of his knee looked normal. All those are good signs for a complete recovery."
The 7-foot Oden was one of the most heralded players to enter the league after leading Ohio State to the national championship game as a freshman. He averaged 15.7 points and 9.6 rebounds last season and had 25 points and 12 rebounds in the national championship against Florida.
His arrival generated considerable excitement in Portland, which was in the midst of an aggressive rebuilding project centered around Oden, rookie of the year Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, the second pick of the 2006 draft.
"Certainly this is a setback, but our future is still incredibly bright," Portland General Manager Kevin Pritchard said in a statement. "Is it disappointing? Yes. However, this is a great core of talent and players of strong character and will continue to be."
Oden complained of soreness in his knee while participating in voluntary workouts last week and an MRI revealed possible cartilage damage. He wrote in his blog that he felt pain in the knee for about a month. "I didn't tell anyone because I didn't want to seem like I was complaining or making excuses for anything," Oden said. "Plus I wasn't doing anything at the time I realized it hurt, so I figured it couldn't be anything big."
Conley said the news was shocking. "He wasn't thinking about the worst-case scenario; he was hoping for the best," Conley said. "But he's been through adversity, that's for sure. He knows how to come back."
The season-ending injury is the latest health setback for Oden. His summer league season was shortened after two games because of a tonsillectomy. He also missed part of his freshman season at Ohio State because of a wrist injury. His durability came into question after taking physicals at the pre-NBA draft camp in Orlando.
He also backed out of playing for the United States national team this summer to focus on the upcoming season. "I would like for me to be playing and not seem like I'm a high-maintenance player, but things just keep popping up," Oden said in his blog.
Conley said he wasn't concern about Oden developing a reputation for being injury-prone. "It's mainly on how he will perform. When Greg comes back and performs well, people won't even think about this," Conley said. "It's all up to Greg and his recovery. He's the kind of kid who is real diligent about this, and he'll do the right thing and he'll be 100 percent next season."
Surgery sidelines Blazers' rookie Oden for season