- Chad Ford, ESPN Senior Writer
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Pavel Podkolzine, an 18-year-old, 7-foot-5, 303-pound candidate for the 2003 NBA draft from Siberia, wowed NBA teams in a private workout in Chicago two weeks ago. However, a routine physical given by the league at the Chicago pre-draft camp raised the issue of a possible pituitary disorder for Podkolzine.
Tuesday's detailed diagnosis confirmed the disorder, but it is treatable, and his draft status likely will not be affected.
For the past week, Podkolzine has been talking to doctors, taking blood tests and trying to understand his condition and what it means for his future. At the same time, he has been flying from NBA city to city for individual workouts. Podkolzine finally received a definitive diagnosis on Tuesday.
Podkolzine's agent, Justin Zanik, faxed a letter to all 29 NBA teams Tuesday night detailing Podkolzine's situation.
The letter, which was written by pituitary specialist Dr. Hrayr K. Shahinian, Director of the Skull Base Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, claims Podkolzine suffers from acromegaly (a growth hormone secreting pituitary adenoma). In layman's terms, Podkolzine's pituitary gland secretes an unusually high amount of a growth hormone, which partly explains his enormous stature.
According to the letter, with minor endoscopic surgery the issue can be resolved with no long-term consequences to Podkolzine's health or NBA career. The procedure lasts about two hours and has a hospital stay of 24 to 48 hours. If all goes well, Podkolzine could be back on the court shooting and running in 10 to 14 days.
"I'm confident," Shahinian wrote, "that Pavel will realize his potential both personally and professionally."
ESPN.com talked to the general managers of two NBA teams with draft picks in the lottery who said they learned of the initial diagnosis last Thursday and their doctors had examined the medical report. Both GMs said the issue wouldn't stop them from taking Podkolzine with their pick.
Chad Ford is a senior NBA writer for ESPN Insider.
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