December 5, 2009. That’s the last time Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden played in an NBA game.
Needless to say the last two years have been a long journey. Oden has endured multiple knee surgeries and sweated through endless rehabilitation since that last game, against the Houston Rockets. His agent said that he underwent interventions, he visited a sports psychologist and he told a newspaper that he had “definitely cut back” on drinking and partying.
Back in June, the Blazers extended Oden an $8.8 million qualifying offer on the hope that he might make good on the potential they saw when they made the 7-footer the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft.
The details of Oden’s current rehabilitation have remained mostly a mystery, as he has been virtually invisible during the lockout, working out in Los Angeles and only rarely agreeing to interviews.
On Thursday, Oden provided the first true update to his status in months on his official Facebook page.
“In LA right now working out,” Oden wrote. “I ran the other day for the first time in awhile. Felt good!”
The message comes two weeks after Oden noted: “Hoping this lockout ends soon.”
Back in April, Oden said that he was “nowhere near” returning to the court and that being able to run was “over five months away.” 6 1/2 months later, running is finally in his rearview.
What does that mean for his future availability? Well, it’s one indication that he is on — or nearly on — schedule. In June, Oden’s agent, Bill Duffy, said it could be January 2012 before Oden returns to the court. By comparison, Oden missed 13 months after undergoing microfracture surgery prior to his rookie season. A January return would mean a 14-month recovery from his most recent microfracture surgery, which was performed less than one year after he underwent surgery on the same knee to repair a fractured patella.
The Blazers are seemingly tied to Oden for the long haul despite his injury history. Aging center Marcus Camby or playing franchise power forward LaMarcus Aldridge out of position are their only other options in the middle. Oden is set to enter restricted free agency once the ongoing NBA lockout is lifted, but it’s unclear what his market value will be. It’s also unclear whether he would prefer to sign the one-year qualifying offer with the Blazers so that he could become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2012 or to negotitate a long-term extension.
Oden, now 23, has played in just 82 games combined in the four seasons since he was drafted out of The Ohio State University. He has posted career averages of 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 22.1 minutes per game.