Portland, Ore. The NBA's top draft pick, Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden, will miss the entire 2007-2008 season after undergoing microfracture surgery on his right knee on Thursday in Portland, Ore.
The injury is expected to keep Oden, the 7-foot-1 freshman center from Ohio State who is viewed as a one-in-a-generation big man, on the sideline for up to a year, Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard said during a conference call with reporters. The operation was performed by Portland team physician Don Roberts after an MRI exam last week revealed problems.
Oden "knew there was a possibility of microfracture," former Kansas University point guard Pritchard said. "He knew there was a possibility of just debridement (a smaller arthroscopic procedure)."
The microfracture procedure, in which small holes are drilled in the knee to facilitate healing, has had mixed results. Players such as Jamal Mashburn, Penny Hardaway and Chris Webber never regained their previous form after having the procedure. Others like John Stockton, Jason Kidd and Amare Stoudemire, have resumed playing at high levels after the operation.
"They're saying, with this small of a lesion, with him being young, with there not being much (cartilage) flaking, they're saying six to 12 months," Pritchard said. Oden began experiencing pain in his knee last week after running.
Pritchard bristled when asked if Oden's injury brought back memories of Sam Bowie and Bill Walton, two other highly drafted Blazers centers whose careers were cut short by injuries. Oden missed a good chunk of his freshman season at Ohio State after breaking his hand.
"Greg's had injuries, but this injury is a one-time, traumatic injury," Pritchard said. "He's probably going to have this injury-prone tag until he proves it wrong."
Pritchard said Oden had MRIs on both knees before the draft, and they were "pristine."
"Greg looked at me as he was coming out of his surgery," said Pritchard. "He and his mom, Zoe, probably said 'sorry' 20 times. And I can feel the weight of the world on his shoulders. ...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, and he hasn't let us down at all."