Oden's recovery from surgery likely in range of 6-12 months

Updated: September 14, 2007, 2:47 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Greg Oden's rookie season with the Portland Trail Blazers abruptly ended before it began when the 7-footer had knee surgery on Thursday.

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.

Blazers' Bad Luck

Greg Oden's impending season on the sidelines immediately brings to mind the case of another Portland center who was a first-round draft pick: Sam Bowie.

The Trail Blazers, picking second in the 1984 NBA draft, took Bowie, a collegiate All-America at Kentucky. The pick before him was Hakeem Olajuwon. The pick after him was Michael Jordan.

Bowie played four injury-marred seasons in Portland -- he played in just 139 games due to a series of leg injuries that required five surgeries -- averaging 10.5 points per game. He was traded to New Jersey after the 1989 season, and played four more years with the Nets, averaging 12.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. He also played two years with the Los Angeles Lakers before retiring in 1995.

Bowie's career numbers: 10.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.78 blocks per game.

Jordan went on to win six NBA titles and five MVP awards. Olajuwon won two titles and one MVP award. Both were named to the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team list in 1996.
-- ESPN.com

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 to Seattle.

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.

[+] EnlargeGreg Oden
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty ImagesSeven-footer Greg Oden is expected to spend all of his first season in the NBA watching the Trail Blazers from off the court.
"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.